The Chicago Cubs vs the Rooftops

Wrigely Rooftop ViewThere’s an interesting situation brewing in Chicago-land between the evil, well, misguided, no, actually, pure evil Chicago Cubs and the owners of rooftop buildings around Wrigley Field. The rooftop buildings offer a view into Wrigley Field and there was a time when friends would gather there to watch the game and have a few beers. Those days are over.

The buildings are now valuable real-estate partially because the owners have built little venues on the roofs and sell game-day tickets to fans. They have comfortable seats, food service, beer service, and other amenities to provide for paying customers. The Cubs worked out a deal with the owners of the rooftops so that the team is paid 17% of the gross revenue taken in by the building owners. The Cubs now think they can generate more revenue by building large billboards in the outfield. These billboards will cut into the value of the buildings across the way because they might block the view from certain venues. The current contract between the Cubs and the building owners runs through 2023.

The Wrigley Rooftop Association is now threatening to sue the Cubs to prevent them from building the signs. The Cubs figure the revenue from the signs will far outweigh that gained from the buildings across the street and plan to go ahead with construction. The war of words is heating up.

When I first read this story I didn’t even think it worth talking about because it seems, at first glance, that the Cubs certainly can make any addition to their stadium they desire. The WRA doesn’t have a say in how the team operates. Then I started to think about the contract which provides the Cubs with 17% of the revenue from buildings, buildings over which they have no say in said operation. I haven’t read the contract so my focus here is going to be more on what both parties expected rather than the legal letter of the law.

Technically the buildings are under no obligation to pay the Cubs anything. There are large office buildings across the street from New Busch Stadium here in St. Louis that offer a view into the ballpark during the games. The Cardinals have asked for no money from the building owners nor have the building owners asked the Cardinals for anything in the way of construction demands.

In this case, the two sides came to a mutually satisfactory agreement. The nature of this agreement seems plain to me. The WRA is paying the Cubs not to build any obstructions to the view garnered from their rooftops. Otherwise what’s the point? The building owners are under no obligation to pay anything to the Cubs and the Cubs are under no obligation about their operations to the WRA. Again, I haven’t read the actual contract but it seems plain this is the reason it exists. If this is the implicit understanding of the agreement, the Cubs should not be allowed to build the signs, contrary to my first thought.

I’m fairly certain that some sort of buy-out can be arranged wherein the Cubs purchase the remaining years on the contract and go ahead with their signage. It’s possible the WRA won’t deal in which case it will end up in court. I suppose it depends on the metrics of the sign revenue, the current revenue from the buildings, and the cost of the buy-out.

Still, I found the story interesting because after examining the situation closely I completely changed my original opinion. I guess that’s my main point here. Always look at a problem fully because you never know what nuances might influence your opinion. Don’t make up your mind before you know the facts, and if the facts don’t support your original supposition, admit your error and move on.

Go Cardinals!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
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