Poll: Voters give axe to Ricketts plan for ticket tax

More than half of Chicago voters don’t like the idea of spending future gains in city and county ticket taxes on renovating Wrigley Field, a new Tribune/WGN poll shows.

Such sentiment mirrored the General Assembly’s lack of response this month to Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts’ first pitch at asking for help paying for improvements to the 96-year-old ballpark.

The team’s new ownership suggested using the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the state agency that owns the ballpark the White Sox call home, to borrow about $250 million. Under the plan, the loan would be repaid by using growth in the 12 percent amusement tax levied on tickets at Wrigley for at least 35 years.

But the proposal struck out in Springfield before it could even be drafted as legislation, with soon-to-retire Mayor Richard Daley saying the city’s next mayor shouldn’t be saddled by such an agreement amid Chicago’s financial problems.

City voters agreed, it turns out.

Fully 51 percent said they opposed such a plan, while only 36 percent supported it. Another 13 percent said they had no opinion of the proposal. The opposition was steady across gender, racial, age and income lines.

The survey of 721 registered and likely voters has an error margin of 3.6 percentage points and was conducted last Friday through Monday.

Alan Pulaski, 65, a poll respondent from the South Loop, said he doesn’t think the Cubs’ wealthy owners should get any public dollars until they make it clear how the city stands to make money off of the improvements.

“It is very hard for the ordinary citizen to figure out how this is going to impact the taxpayers,” Pulaski said. “But my gut reaction is that the Ricketts don’t need any public money.”

But Susi Lingner, a native Chicagoan and poll respondent from East Rogers Park, said public support for improvements is important because “to many people, Wrigley Field is Chicago, or is at least a part of Chicago that should be preserved.”

“We as a city need to step up to the plate and make sure that it is around for our children to enjoy,” Lingner said.

The Cubs are exploring other financial proposals to bring to Springfield when the new legislature is seated next month. One possibility is creating a tax-increment financing district around the ballpark that would allow growth in property-tax revenues to be tapped to pay for renovating Wrigley.

Dennis Culloton, a Ricketts family spokesman, said support for putting together a package to improve the stadium exists “at every level of government,” with organized labor backing the project and the potential construction jobs it would generate.

“What gets lost sometimes in the debate is the Ricketts family’s plan on investing $200 million of their own money as part of this,” Culloton said. “By leveraging public and private together, you can get a lot more done and have a lot more impact at a time when people are looking for economic development, for jobs.”

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