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Emanuel calls for deal on Wrigley

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 9:26 a.m. CDT

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(MCT) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel indicated Wednesday that he'd like the various parties involved in Wrigley Field renovation talks to reach a compromise but doesn't want to negotiate his end of the deal in public.

Making his first public comments since Cubs CEO Tom Ricketts unveiled a proposal last weekend that would see the team pay $300 million to fix up the stadium in return for the city loosening advertising restrictions and granting other concessions, Emanuel said Wrigley Field is too important for this dispute to drag on.

"I want to ensure that it continues that kind of economic vital, important role that it plays in the North Side of the city of Chicago and that community, which is why I'm also pleased they're also putting a hotel up," Emanuel said at a news conference to announce additional funding for agencies that provide free income tax preparation. "So I've asked all the parties involved to finish this up. We all have a stake in getting it done. It is not done till all the parts fall in place."

Emanuel, who has been cool to previous Ricketts requests for a share of amusement tax revenue to subsidize work at the 99-year-old park, positioned himself as the steward of the public purse strings in the dispute.

"When I first started this discussion, the Cubs wanted $200 million in taxpayer dollars. I said no," the mayor said. "Then they said we'd like $150 million, and I said no. Then they asked whether they could have $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, and I said no. Then they asked about $55 million in taxpayer subsidies. I said no. The good news is, after 15 months they heard the word 'No.'"

Plenty of obstacles remain before the Ricketts family can break ground. Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, has raised concerns about specifics of the plan, including a request that the city allow the team to put up more outfield advertisements, which could block the views from surrounding rooftop businesses where people pay to watch games. The alderman also wants the team to better address parking and traffic problems that have long been a headache for people who live in the congested neighborhood.

In addition, rooftop owners have come out against the proposal.

Asked what he says to rooftop owners who have invested heavily in the properties ringing Wrigley and could see their business suffer if the city grants the Ricketts family more billboards in the bleachers, Emanuel replied, "I'm not going to negotiate in public, but there's a lot of effort being made to finish this up."

The mayor wouldn't say how much power Tunney should have to shape the plan.

"There's a lot of things we're going to work through," Emanuel said. "Tom and I have been working on this for over a year. On this recent issue, Tom has been a constructive and productive person in the negotiations, but he, too, would agree it's important to see this through to the end. We've got a number of issues on the table that still have to be worked out."

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