More Wrigley taxes would help fund fixes

By Paul Sullivan | Tribune reporter

11:03 PM CDT, May 8, 2008

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney said Thursday the proposed renovations to Wrigley Field would be partially funded by “incremental” sales tax and amusement tax increases at the ballpark.

The Cubs are hoping to sell Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority separately from the team but have had difficulty gaining political support. In an interview with WSCR-AM 670, Kenney said the funding for the proposed $400 million renovation would come from three sources: Tribune Co.; the next owner of the Cubs; and taxes generated in the ballpark itself. In addition to the Cubs, Tribune Co. also owns the Chicago Tribune.

“Bonds will be issued in the first step of this transaction to pay Tribune for the stadium, and those bonds will be repaid not with tax proceeds, but instead with the rent the team will pay to ISFA,” Kenney said. “The public support that’s being looked for is to renovate the stadium. … The structure that’s being proposed is one where the tax dollars that are spent inside Wrigley Field, so to the extent we generate sales tax, amusement tax and other taxes that go into the general coffers, that above a certain amount, a baseline of 2007 for the incremental tax revenues generated inside Wrigley Field, will go to support the renovation bonds.”

Former Gov. Jim Thompson, ISFA chairman, has said that no tax money would be used on either the purchase or restoration of Wrigley.

“We are working on a proposal to present to Tribune Co. that will allow ISFA to acquire and fully restore Wrigley Field, as well as add parking and neighborhood improvements, without using any public tax money, either state or local,” Thompson said late last month.

Kenney also said the Cubs want to restore Wrigley Field to “its original look,” which would include removing exterior chain link fences and concrete panels. The renovations also would include upgraded luxury suites and premium seating behind home plate that would require the destruction of the team’s offices.

Pointing to the bleacher expansion, Kenney said Cubs fans should trust them to treat the ballpark with respect.”We aren’t foolish enough to ruin what makes the place special,” Kenney said.

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