No blinds for Wrigley — rooftop holdout gives up

OWNER TO PAY CUBS | Had argued big TV hurt his NHL game view

Fri, 27 Mar 2009 04:01

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

The Cubs’ April 13 home opener will not be marred by rooftop wars and the perennial threat of visual obstructions to block the clubs’ bird’s-eye view of Wrigley Field.

Concerned that the Cubs might follow through on the threat to put up blinds to block his mid-block view, rooftop owner Anthony Racky agreed Thursday to share 17 percent of his 2008 profits with the team.

The owner of the Lakeview Baseball Club, 3633 N. Sheffield, also agreed to reimburse the Cubs for legal fees tied to the breach of contract lawsuit filed against Racky in federal court.

Racky had withheld the 2008 payment to protest a Jumbotron that, he claims, blocked half his view during the NHL’s New Year’s Day Winter Classic.

The rooftop sold out for the game between the Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. But Racky argued that fans who had trouble seeing the rink would have to be given a future discount or freebie and that the Cubs should pay for it.

His one-man protest suffered a major blow last week, when a federal judge refused to prohibit the Cubs from blocking Racky’s view.

On Thursday, both sides buried the hatchet and the Cubs put away the blinds.

“We didn’t want to take the risk. The business is premised on being able to watch the game. Even having the threat or perception [of an obstruction] would not be good for business,” said Paul Bauch, an attorney representing Racky.

“When they put up the windscreens in ’02, they were not very effective. . . . They possibly could have devised something more effective. But we didn’t want to take the chance. There’s also a value in not being at war with people in the neighborhood. These businesses are codependent.”

The Cubs were equally pleased to avoid playing the heavy, said Mike Lufrano, the team’s vice president of community relations.

“We were looking at lots of options. But we always said we hoped it didn’t come to anything like that,” he said.

“The partnership since 2004 has benefitted the Cubs and the rooftops. I’m glad it’s going to continue.”

Five years ago, the Cubs and the rooftops struck a deal after an acrimonious dispute that saw the team put up windscreens to obscure rooftop views and file a copyright-infringement lawsuit designed to put the private clubs out of business.

Rooftop owners agreed to pay the Cubs 17 percent of their gross revenues for the next 20 years. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to market the rooftops and adjust the compensation rate downward if a 2006 bleacher expansion hurt views.

Despite the agreement, rooftop wars have become an almost annual rite of spring.

Sun Times

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