When the Cubs ownership changed hands, some friends of mine with maybe more insight and inside dope than me, suggested that we would long for the days of the Tribune’s corporate ownership sooner than we ever imagined.

Well, maybe not the current batch of bankrupt blockheads who managed to sell off the only really profitable division of their empire, but it makes you wonder in a way about the crisis of American capitalism in a nutshell.

Anyway, needless to say everybody is weighing in on the great plan, and so far the verdict is not so good for the Ricketts team. You wonder, for one thing, who is doing their PR and whether they ought to think about, at a minimum, hiring competent hucksters for a change. The Tribune guys at least paid their own way even though they used their brand ownership and muscle to push around everyone who got in their way. Here is a good selection of articles and opinion, pro, objective, and con. Mostly con. There is even a rather sensible tongue in cheek suggestion from Ed Sherman at Crain’s Chicago Business that they might seek state aid in financing the remainder of Alfonso Soriano’s contract, about $72 million.

To be brief, this is the deal: The Cubs get to welch on their original agreement to develop the triangle of land between Waveland, Clark, and the stadium, in return for the City letting them expand the bleachers.

In a novel legal argument, they claim that that agreement was negotiated by the previous ownership and even though they have continued to exist as a corporate entity, well, hey, that was the other guy’s business, not theirs. This kind of ploy usually doesn’t sit well even with politicians. Even a shill like Tom Tunney seems to have his doubts.

The Ricketts proposal amounts to a kind of confusing financial shell game. In essence, though, it a pretty much a scam, though a somewhat more inventive one than, say, the White Sox play for a new stadium where they just threatened to move to Florida. The Cubs want public financing to make all the necessary renovations to the Wrigley Field’s infrastructure, new clubhouses, kitchens, batting cages, weight rooms, whatever structural interventions are necessary.

Now all this stuff is stuff that should be done, but the problem is that as far as Wrigley Field itself goes, the structure has run up against a situation of diminishing returns. All the deferred maintenance mentioned above doesn’t add much to the bottom line unless you double ticket prices or something like that, because attendance, the basis of the Cubs cash machine, has maxed out. So no doubt the fans experience and the players experience is enhanced, but there’s nothing in it for the owners, is there?

So their first thought, of course, is to have somebody else pay for it. Or, better yet, in a flurry of mumbo-jumbo economics that would put Milo Minderbinder from Catch 22 to shame, nobody pays for it really, because we just use the tax that would be paid anyway when it increases over twenty years, and just the part the Cubs ticket buyers would pay anyway would probably be used for useless junk like schools or stoplights or something.

See, we get a new Wrigley Field that will last for generations until some mutant ivy eats away the bricks in the outfield wall.

Meanwhile, the Ricketts can use their own money or money they raise privately to develop the new Wrigleyville. This part is a little vague. It seems to consist of the famous Triangle Building and some sort of mall that runs along Clifton Avenue west of the fire station that is populated by happy, suburban, white families munching hot dogs and buying lots of Cubs paraphernalia.

It looks a lot like Wrigleyville West, which the Cubs have managed to con the citizens of Mesa, Arizona into building in order to keep their spring training facilities there. Or, kind of like The Glen, all ersatz gimmickery that is supposed to give you the genuine Wrigleyville experience without the concomitant urban grit.

I’ve lived within a mile or so of Wrigley Field in various rentals and condos for most of my adult life. I’ve seen the environs develop from seedy, to gritty, to gentrified, to the current state of something like fratified if that can be a word. But the thing is that that growth and development, though it is centered around the ballpark, has been organic and basically real whether you like it or not. Or, whether you feel comfortable there or not.

You’re in a city, a big city, and cities are messy places. You don’t have to live here and you don’t have to visit. Neither do you have to have those environs developed at a considerable public subsidy to make money for people who are already rich enough to pay for it on their own.

The Ivy Covered Burial Ground

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