Cubs want to be exempt from amusement

Posted on Feb 10, 2011 in Featured, Media Hacks | 5 comments



Yesterday Al Yellon ran part one of his three part epic miniseries of pedantism, his interview with a guy he’s pretty sure isn’t the owner of the Cubs, Tom Ricketts.

While part one consisted mostly of Al trying to get himself invited to the next owner’s meeting, he promises that he’s taking off his gloves (likely some crocheted mittens) and he’s going after Tom.

Sparks are gonna fly!

BCB Interview: Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts (Part II)

This part of the interview is going to be a little more contentious,

You go, Al.  You’re doing the Lord’s work here.  You’re a season ticket holder, albeit one who buys the most overpriced seats in all of professional sports (Cubs bleacher seats) and who sits as far away from the action as humanly possible.  If you can’t hold the “man” accountable who can?

I’m afraid,

It’s OK.  Follow that fear.  Chase it.  Once you’ve wet your pants, doing it again isn’t so bad.  Kind of warming, really.

yesterday’s had its points of contention.

You bet it did.  I loved it that one time when you demanded to know who owned the Cubs.  And then when you asked it again, and again, and again, and again and oh, you get the idea.

Today’s portion of the interview deals with the proposed renovations to Wrigley Field and the proposal that was made to use a portion of the amusement tax charged on Cubs tickets to finance parts of that renovation.

You sir, have a talent.  An economy of words that frankly, leaves me speechless.  I would have been tempted to use the word “renovation” at least three more times in that one run-on sentence.

Let me say right now that regardless of the numbers put forth and whether they match up or not, or cost the city and county (since it’s a local tax, not a state tax; the state’s involvement would be to float the bond issue) any money — it does appear to be a very difficult time to be asking for public financing of a project like this.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Sorry, I fell asleep there for a minute.  What is today’s episode going to be about?  You’re not going to try to explain this ludicrous financing scheme again are you?  I have a lot of respect for your intellect Al (nah, just kidding, Al’s a complete idiot), but if you’re going to try to explain this, I’m going to have to call in the smartest guy I know to clarify things.

Yes, you know who I mean.

Former Tigers, Cubs and Orioles reliever Roberto Novoa.

Tom Ricketts told me, and you will read, that they are asking for a public/private partnership that the Cubs say will create jobs and enough revenue generated to pay off the bonds.

If we’re going to read it, Al, how about you not feel the need to tell us in advance.  Or at least give us a SPOILER ALERT!  Next thing you know you’re going to tell us that all of the Oceanic 815 passengers died and went to Limbo!

Whether that is true or not is not something I can judge here; this is a difficult topic to open discussion on because, by its very nature, it is political and I don’t want political discussion here.

Love this.  Al’s not sure if what Tom told him is true, and of course his readers could discuss this in the comments, but that would be politics and Al doesn’t condone politics in his comments…or criticism, or coherent thoughts, or proper spelling and grammar.

That said, this is a political issue involving our favorite baseball team and thus, a valid topic for discussion. I ask only that you not devolve into namecalling, personal attacks or extreme partisan positions.

I love it when Al goes all, “Let me restate this by restating what I’ve just said and by repeating that several different ways.”

The latest I have heard about this issue is that the Cubs are going to revisit it sometime this year. What form that will take is not yet known.

Now this is a scoop.  It’s Al writing, “You know how we all know the Cubs are going to try this again?  Well, I heard that they’re going to do that but I’m not sure when or how.”

BCB: The first question regarding the ballpark is related to the bond funding proposal and the renovation. There have been people at BCB who have come out and said well in this era where states and cities are hurting and the tax revenues are down because the economy’s in tough shape and here are the Cubs asking for public money. What do you say to the people who say the Cubs should not be asking for public money in the current economic climate?

The Preamble to the United States Constitution is 52 words.  The preamble (emphasis on amble) to Al’s first question was 59 words.  That seems about right.

TR: I have two thoughts on that. First of all, these dollars that we’re talking about are dollars paid by season ticket holders being retained and being reinvested in the park.

BCB: It’s not just season ticket holders, it’s all ticket buyers, right?

Tom has two thoughts.  Al would like to interrupt him after one.

TR: All ticket buyers, right. So it’s basically all tickets we sell have an amusement tax on them. Just the incremental increase from that over time is what we’re asking to keep back, which we can turn into a bond, which can be used to put dollars in the park today. And the concept is we bring the $200 million or so in from that bond, we add about $200 million from the family and then we can do everything we need to do at the park and make the economic developments we need just outside the park that not only enhance the game day experience, but raise the overall economic footprint of home games and hopefully all year round in the neighborhood.

So the answer to the first question is to the extent it’s the increment going forward on a relatively high tax, the second highest tax in all of baseball.

I didn’t follow any of that.  Roberto?

Seems to me like the little guy with the greasy hair doesn’t like the city getting scratch every time he sells a ticket.

BCB: Amusement tax.

TR: Amusement tax.

Adorable.

We pay the second most amusement taxes in all of baseball. The first is the Yankees and the Yankees have a brand new $1.3 billion publicly funded stadium.

I agree with Tommy here.  If the Yankees can have a city build them an ostentatious tribute to their own greed, why can’t the Cubs?

I would suggest now is a good time to do a public/private partnership that generates a substantial amount of economic activity. And the reason is that right now, for a lot of people who would be impacted on the short end of this, a lot of people who would come in to do the construction jobs and a lot of other types of work around the stadium design, the stadium improvements and the private development outside are having a very, very difficult time. They’re looking at 30, 35, 40 percent unemployment in some trades. If you’re going to pick a time to be creative and to come up with a solution, why not do it now when the economy is going sideways.

Clearly the mayor wants construction workers to starve to death.  Why not take money out of the city budget to help some billionaires fix up their shitheap of a ballpark?  It’s not like everybody who’d ever set foot in the building knew that the place needed a cost prohibitive remodel.  Tom Ricketts loves construction workers!  Just not enough to pay any of them himself.

BCB: The tax alone that won’t fund the bonds entirely.

TR: No, the tax increment does fund the bonds entirely. What we would probably need is a, depending on how it’s structured, but we would need a state backup which means not that they have to be out of pocket but unless something went wrong with the team, so we need to take out a credit enhancement so if the funds from the incremental amusement dollars are insufficient by the date the bonds are due, it would be a case, at least on the first proposal, borrow from the state and pay them back over time as the amusement tax dollars kept coming in.

Ha!  Screw you Al!  See the make-believe surplus does pay for it.  Except unless it doesn’t, and then our bankrupt state can bail things out.  You know in case “something went wrong with the team.”  You know, like them sucking and no fans coming to the games, meaning that in year two and three the Cubs don’t sell enough tickets to meet the guaranteed amount they’re supposed to pay the city.

BCB: Of course there are construction jobs and then once the Triangle Building and the other projects are finished there will be other jobs that will be created by that. Some people say: those are only going to be minimum wage waitress jobs or jobs like that. What other kinds of jobs would be created by this project?

Come on Al, it’s going to have a Cubs Hall of Fame in it.  They’re going to need more than just waitresses.  They’re gonna need somebody to clean the windows, too!

TR: Obviously on the front end it is the construction jobs, which are certainly not minimum wage jobs, so that’s good.

Let me answer your question by first not answering it.

It really depends on how we end up programming the Triangle Building.

Todd’s in charge of programming it.  And he’s going to start by showing this on a continuous loop.

Not only could that monkey act, but Greg Evigan can sing!

It depends on what kind of stuff we put in there and honestly it’s not determined yet. I’m sure there’ll be a wide range of different types of job opportunities in the development and I’ll also say to the extent that maybe some of them are on the lower end of the pay scale, at least they’re jobs.

At least they’re job.  You hear that Todd?  Some people actually work for a living.  They don’t just bankrupt bike shops and act like carrying around a bag of Clif bars makes you a nutritionist!

BCB: What other kinds, in terms of the ballpark renovation itself, we’ve seen the renderings of what things might look like. What specifically is the portion of the ballpark renovation going to entail? What things are going to be done?

Al asking the same question twice in a row never gets old, does it?

TR: We’re still working on that.

He’s got no fucking idea.

We recently retained the architects and the people that worked on Fenway, so one of the things that – there’s a couple good analogies with Fenway. Obviously the age and the fact that they went in and as they improved the stadium they also made sure that it was preserved and basically they think they got another 50 years of useful life out of the park.

I’ve pitched there since they fixed it up.  They fixed it up by nailing chairs on the wall and the roof.  The whole place still smells like piss and intolerance.

They’re looking at those issues right now. We don’t have a full plan in place for what exactly it looks like at the end, but the thought is that if we know we have the resources to go forward with that, that we would spend from now until the end of this season getting that ready so that when the season ends in 2011 we can begin.

Like I said. Slick’s got no idea what they’re going to do.  He just wants some free money.

BCB: There was some talk about some underground clubhouses

I love how secret “underground clubhouses” sounds.  Don’t they sound like something that Harriett Tubman would be the clubbie for?

Either that, or it’s this:

and that you were going to do some exploratory digging? Has that happened?

Todd’s in charge of the digging.  Things are going fine so far.

TR: Yeah. As a matter of fact we have looked into that and the thought is obviously on a very small footprint trying to find space. We’ve got our clubhouse facilities are less than 50 percent what the average ballpark is now. Obviously we know we don’t have batting tunnels, we have smaller training, we have smaller weight training rooms. We don’t have some of the other types of facilities other teams have. So, in order to find space for those, we’re considering the concept of going underneath the field.

The Cubs have ordered Tim Wilken to only draft players who have proven experience operating backhoes, or actual moles.

The only downside to drafting moles is that E-ramis Ramirez keeps trying to pour them over his burritos.

BCB: You said you’ve got architects who did Fenway. There are going to be people who say: isn’t this a little too much Boston? It’s one thing to want to model it after what was done in Boston, but some people I’m hearing are saying: you can’t turn the Cubs into the Red Sox.

Seriously?  By hiring architects who have worked on baseball’s other rickety monstrosity, the Ricketts are going to turn the Cubs into the Red Sox?  SHUT YOUR FACKING TRAP YELLAHN!  YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS TO BE LIKE THE SAWX!  EVERY TEAM WANTS TO BE THE SAWX!  NO ONE DENIES THIS!

TR: There’s no intention of turning the Cubs into the Red Sox

I’m with Tommy here.  Let’s avoid emulating any of that winning bullshit.  All those extra games to have to watch and worry about?  That just seems exhausting.

Obviously we have to make sure that whatever happens to Wrigley or however we change Wrigley is consistent with the way we look at what Wrigley means to us and what it means to Cub fans.

Love it.  Don’t pad that brick wall, just plant a climbing weed on it.  Point most of the seats straight ahead, don’t worry about where home plate is.  If cement falls off the grandstand, put it in a plastic bag and sell it for $40 and dub it Friendly Confines Brand Infrastructure Collectibles.

BCB: Any more plans for in park or near park advertising signs?

The only correct answer to this question is “Fuck yes.”  Any other answer just means you want free money from the city and that you don’t have the balls to take on the idiot minority of Cubs fans by slathering the park with revenue producing ads.

TR: No.

Could you be more of an asshole?

(laughing) No.

Wow, you can be.

CB: All these questions seem to revolve around money somehow.

They also revolve around pointless.

Let’s talk about the ticket price increases. You now have new tiers for ticket pricing and different pricing for bleachers and the rest of the ballpark, based on what you saw last year, a lot of empty seats and a fair number of unsold tickets. Although the average cost of a season ticket for most people stayed fairly flat, some of the games are priced quite a bit higher than they were last year. Granted that there are quite a larger number of the value dates, as well, do you think that some of these prices are too high and will keep people away?

Apparently there are thousands of dumbasses who will pay front row prices to sit on a plank 450 feet from the action.  If you can find those idiots and teach them how to change buses and get to the park, you certainly can sell a few thousand tickets for a game against Pissburgh on an April Wednesday no matter how terrible the team is.  And to prove it, the Cubs are going to be terrible in 2011.  It’s a bold strategy.

TR: It’s always been a goal and remains a goal to get new people in the park, get families in the park, and always make sure that there’s enough affordable games for people.

By “affordable games” he of course means weekday afternoon games against terrible teams when the weather sucks.  Somebody start engraving a “Families First” plaque of some sort for the Rickettses.

I don’t have the ticket pricing stats in front of me but I think there’s something like 70 percent more games that are kind of in the lowest bracket in terms of the costs.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I have memorized one of the most meaningless and misleading.

And the fact is, like you said, season ticket holders, prices are flat.

Give Ricketts credit.  He knows his audience.  Yellon only gives a shit about season ticket prices.  He thinks being a season ticket holder gives him some sort of quasi-authority, when all it really does is proves the adage “a fool and his money will be soon parted.”

We want to make sure that as many seats as possible are full and we want to make sure that people realize that — get over the perception that Wrigley’s too expensive to bring their families to.

The easiest way to get people over that perception would be to make it not true, but that’s not likely to happen.

BCB: Do you have any figures or numbers on percentage of season ticket renewals?

TR: I don’t have them in front of me, but I know they went very well.

Don’t know.  But I’m sure it’s fine.

I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Unless it’s not.  Which it isn’t.  Oh god, we’re all fucked.  Crane said these stupid fucking fans would show up no matter what.  It’s what I told dad!  Dad’s pissed.  I haven’t seen him this pissed since the time Todd lit fireworks in the house and burned down most of the west side of Omaha.

We’re going to go back and do more infrastructure type of stuff. Once again painting, patching, repairs, whatever we have to do. But I think on the second one, I think that hopefully people have realized our commitment to the field and just initiating this discussion with our public officials is a big part of that. We’re not going to hide from the fact that we have a big job in front of us and we really have to just address it.

We’ve got a big job in front of us.  We just don’t want to pay for any of it.

I think we’ve had, I mean the Tribune did a fine job of maintaining the park, but nobody ever said okay, what do we have to do to make this good for the next generation.

Fucking cheap assed Tribune assholes.  Who was in charge of that half-assed plan anyway?

So we’re attacking that really head on.

Absolutely.  We’re fixing it.  We put this guy on it.


BCB: And what about all the brouhaha in Mesa?

Nice touch.  Al just used a word that was last used with sincerity the last time the Cubs won a World Series.

TR: Well, I guess you’d call that a surprise.

It was a surprise alright.  Who knew those naive dopes would vote to build your stupid little practice facility to play pretend games in for you free?

BCB: And your target date is?

TR: It takes 18 months and we can probably start next summer, so what is that? 2013? And the good news is that the building season is a little bit longer down there and there’s a lot of on the ground expertise from all the other recent facilities that have been built. And furthermore I think that because the economy’s not as strong there as, we’ll the economy’s not strong anywhere, but it’s also going to be a really good time to get some people to work and I think there’ll be a lot of resources available to do the work.

Got that right, Tom.  The economy sucks there, here, everywhere.  Seems like a great time to ask for more free money!

Al’s third and final part runs tomorrow.  I’m sure it will be just as good as the first two parts.

So, not very.