10:53 PM CDT, July 14, 2012
While the stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay are viewed as the most critical in baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig quietly is trying to help the Cubs secure funding for a public-private partnership that would allow Wrigley Field to be updated along the lines of Boston's Fenway Park.
The State of Illinois rebuffed the Cubs two years ago, and talks with the City of Chicago have appeared stalled, in part because of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's displeasure at Joe Ricketts' opposition to President Barack Obama's re-election. But Selig is dangling a carrot he hopes can bring the parties closer to a solution.
While Selig declined to comment on the Cubs situation, it was revealed during conversations after last week's All-Star Game in Kansas City that Major League Baseball is promising to bring the All-Star Game to Wrigley Field as soon as possible after the ballpark is improved.
MLB's hope is that city officials will see that the economic impact of that event would partially offset the cost of helping the Ricketts family modernize Wrigley, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2014.
The round figure being thrown around for Wrigley updating is $500 million, with $300 million going to the ballpark itself and $200 million going to the long-proposed "triangle building'' adjacent to the park. It has been reported that the team will construct the building itself but would like about $150 million in public funding to help pay for the ballpark improvements.
You can argue about economic-impact studies all day long and not find a method acceptable to all. But MLB has found that the bigger the market, the bigger the impact.
While local officials estimate that this year event in Kansas City carried an economic impact of about $60 million, the 2013 game at Citi Field in New York is estimated to generate $191.5 million for hotels, restaurants and other New York businesses, according to New York City Economic Development officials.
The Cubs had pushed to host the 2014 All-Star Game as a birthday party for the stadium that began as Weeghman Park, which originally was home to the Federal League's Chicago Whales. That's not going to happen, as '14 is an American League year and the event soon will be announced for Target Field in Minnesota.
Citi Field, the Mets' new home, gets the 2013 game. Washington, Miami and Cincinnati (which last had an All-Star Game in 1988) are lined up for '15, '17 and '19, respectively, but Selig is prepared to let the Cubs cut in line if taxpayers will pony up to help the team.
It's possible the game could go to Wrigley in an even-numbered year, like 2016. Selig made an exception to the rotation for the event to go to New York in Yankee Stadium's final season, rather than the year before. He said last week that he doesn't want to make another such exception, given home-field advantage being tied to the All-Star Game, but didn't rule it out. There are no new stadiums in the AL in line for the event behind Minnesota, although Selig said franchises compete fiercely to get the game.
"It used to be that nobody wanted to host it,'' Selig said last week. "We would have to give somebody some kind of a sweetener to get them to take it. That has certainly changed.''
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