CHICAGO (CN) – Threatened with having their views of Wrigley Field switched for the back of a Jumbotron, neighboring rooftop properties claim in court that the stadium-renovation plans for Chicago Cubs amount to strong-arming.
The lawsuit comes as tensions mount in the Cubs’ attempt to launch a $375 million renovation of Wrigley Field.
“Rooftop people” have long watched Cubs games from apartment buildings and rooftop bars beyond the outfield walls, across Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, where some home-run balls end up, but their views could face obstruction from two Jumbotrons that the project would install at other either side of the field, along with five outfield signs and eight additional rows of bleacher seats.
Though the owners of these rooftops pay for their viewing privileges, stadium-financing consultant Marc Ganis was quoted last year as calling them “carpetbaggers” who “steal” their views of the games.
The complaint that 12 of these property owners filed on Jan. 8 names the city as defendant along with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, all eight members of the commission and Commissioner Andrew Mooney of the Department of Housing and Economic Development.
They say the Cubs have used the commission’s July preliminary approval of the renovation plan to push them into selling their properties to the team.
“Shortly after the commission announced its July 10, 2014 decision, the Cubs told the rooftops they could either sell their businesses to the Cubs at a fraction of both cost and fair market value or have their businesses destroyed when the Cubs block their views,” according to the complaint.
Facing this threat, several non-plaintiff owners allegedly sold their businesses to the Cubs during summer and fall of 2014.
When the Cubs’ original renovation plans did not meet National Park Service standards for a historic preservation tax credit, the team allegedly shifted things around – to the benefit of its new properties.
“The National Park Service objected to the outfield signs approved by the Commission because the excessive size and number of outfield signs would adversely affect the historic and architectural features of Wrigley Field,” the complaint states.
“Instead of substantively modifying the outfield sign plan, the Cubs reconfigured the outfield signs so as to completely block the views of the rooftops the Cubs were unable to purchase and to restore the views of the rooftops the Cubs contracted to purchase,” it continues.
The owners say the commission approved the changes to the plan in December, but its reasoning has not been made public.
In addition to an injunction against the construction of the proposed Jumbotrons and outfield signs, the plaintiffs want the commission’s July and December rulings reversed, plus release by the city of a complete record of the proceedings.
The owners are represented by Thomas Moore with Anderson & Moore.
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