Rooftop owner irate over Wrigley Jumbotron

LAKE VIEW | He’s withholding payment to Cubs, says screen blocked view during NHL Classic

February 17, 2009

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/fspielman@suntimes.com

Tensions between the Cubs and the owner of a rooftop club are again heating up, renewing the perennial threat of visual obstructions on opening day to block rooftop fans’ bird’s-eye view of Wrigley Field.

Anthony Racky, owner of the Lakeview Baseball Club, 3633 N. Sheffield, is withholding 2008 profit-sharing payments from the Cubs to protest a Jumbotron that Racky says blocked half his view during the NHL’s New Year’s Day Winter Classic.

The Lake View Baseball Club sold out for the game between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. But club attorney Paul Bach said fans who had trouble seeing the rink would be given a future discount or “freebie,” and Racky wants the Cubs to pay for it. He also wants the Cubs to promise there won’t be any future obstructions.

Until those things happen, Bach said, the 2008 payment would be withheld.

“If they want us to live up to the agreement, we want them to live up to their side,” Bach said. “It’s not about the money. It’s about the fact that we paid for an unobstructed view.”

Profit-sharing payments for 2008 were due Dec. 31. Asked why Racky was the only one of 17 rooftop club owners to withhold payment, Bach said, “We have a history of standing up to the Cubs. If this rooftop hadn’t stood up to the Cubs 20 years ago, there wouldn’t be any rooftops.”

Mike Lufrano, vice president of community relations for the Cubs, responded: “It’s unfortunate that we continue to have issues like this. We hope to be able to resolve it by working with the rooftop owner.”

Other sources said the Cubs would have no choice but to put up decorative banners or some other form of obstruction to block Racky’s mid-block view if he hasn’t paid up by opening day.

Bach countered, “They’ve been threatening to do that for 20 years. They can’t because it would violate all the other agreements. And it only makes them look stupid.”

Five years ago, the Cubs and the rooftops struck a deal after an acrimonious dispute that saw the team put up windscreens to obscure their 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 lower the compensation rate if views were adversely affected by a 2006 bleacher expansion.

Still, rooftop wars have become an almost annual rite of spring. Last year, the Cubs filed a lawsuit — and started testing decorative banners that block the view of Wrigley — to punish the owner of three rooftop clubs who was refusing to honor the 2004 agreement. Tom Gramatis ultimately paid up, but only after the Cubs agreed to accept an undisclosed flat fee from his Ivy League Baseball Club to compensate for the bleacher expansion.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>