Wrigley Field back on the market – Illinois agency’s bid to buy stadium hits snag

06/10/2008 10:11 AM ET

CHICAGO — Wrigley Field is back on the market.

The Tribune Co. has rejected a no-tax proposal to purchase Wrigley Field by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) — which owns and operates the Chicago White Sox’s home ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field — according to former Illinois Gov. James Thompson.

Thompson, the ISFA’s lead negotiator and chairman, said in a statement that the Tribune Co. believes the sale “requires either the transfer of future sales and amusement tax revenue from transactions at Wrigley Field for the next 30 years, or the imposition of new taxes, or the transfer of existing ISFA funds now pledged to projects at U.S. Cellular Field.”

Thompson said that the ISFA could not agree to that, adding, “In our judgment, there are no votes in the City Council or in the Illinois General Assembly for transferred or new taxes for Wrigley Field.”

In addition, he said, the ISFA could not break promises to the White Sox under their lease terms.

The Tribune Co. issued a statement, saying that the ISFA’s proposal would violate policies of Major League Baseball, as MLB prohibits using ticket revenues to back stadium financing. The ISFA had proposed constructing additional seats at the ballpark and selling equity rights to those seats to finance a renovation project estimated at $400 million.

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said that they will move on to find a new buyer.

“We appreciate Gov. Thompson’s interest and involvement,” Kenney said. “We appreciate the time he took to try to make something work.”

The Tribune Co. announced in April 2007 that it was putting the Cubs up for sale, but that sale has been delayed while the company tried to negotiate a deal with the ISFA regarding Wrigley Field.

The financial books on the Cubs were expected to go out this week to potential bidders who have been approved by Major League Baseball.

“We’ll move forward with the private process,” Kenney said.

Wrigley Field was built in 1914, and it is the second-oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues, behind Boston’s Fenway Park. The Cubs played their first game there in 1916.

From: cubs.com

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