The Ricketts’ proposal for Wrigley Field is wrongheaded and deceptive

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I was a day or two late into the whole Ricketts-want-public-money-for-Wrigley Field thing, and yesterday I spent more time trying to get Joe Ricketts or someone on record about it than reading deeply into the issue.  Note: the Ricketts’ spokespeople have still not returned my calls, so I can only assume that their response to the question “do you believe it is inconsistent to campaign against wasteful government spending while asking for public monies to pay for the improvements to Wrigley Field and the construction of the Cubs’ new spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona” is “no comment.”  I’ll call ’em back, though.

But I have been reading up more on the proposal this morning.  Tom Ricketts made the rounds yesterday touting the plan as a public-private partnership that woudn’t raise anyone’s taxes or directly spend public money, but that just doesn’t add up at all.  The short version of this can best be seen in the Chicago Tribune’s editorial on the matter yesterday, which illustrates that there is no free ride here:

Under Ricketts’ plan, the authority would sell up to $300 million in bonds for the Wrigley renovations. The money would be repaid out of the 12 percent amusement tax levied on each Cubs ticket. The city and county would be guaranteed each year the $16.1 million in revenue that was generated by the tax in 2009, but everything above that would be used to retire the bonds.

That’s money that would otherwise go into the city and county general funds. Neither the city nor the county is in any position to sneeze at the loss. Mayor Richard Daley didn’t rule out helping the Cubs somehow but stressed that the city is counting “nickels and dimes.” County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley said much the same thing.

Perhaps the strongest argument of all: The Civic Federation’s Laurence Msall warned against taking on debt for non-essentials with a $15 billion deficit looming. “The state of Illinois faces an enormous financial crisis and will be needing all of its borrowing power just to pay its bills and continue to operate,” he said.

Both the borrowing power exerted by the State of Illinois under the Ricketts’ proposal, and the extra amusement taxes collected, could be directed in more useful directions than a Wrigley rehab.

What’s more, I think the Tribune makes the best suggestion here:

Why not private financing? The deal is largely based on hiking ticket prices to garner 12 cents in tax for every $1 dollar in higher ticket revenue. Better to put the entire buck toward a privately financed rehab.

Makes sense to me. If you’re going to increase the amusement tax on tickets — which Tom Ricketts clearly said was the case yesterday — why don’t the Cubs just increase the face price of the tickets to pay for it themselves?

I can’t think of a single reason other than that by doing so, the Cubs couldn’t claim that they’ve never raised ticket prices.

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.

Yadier Molina says Adam Jones “has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people”

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After the U.S. won the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night, Adam Jones told a reporter that he and his teammates were motivated in part by the fact that Puerto Rico already had championship t-shirts printed up and plans for a parade/celebration in Puerto Rico in place beforehand.

Which, OK, whatever you need to motivate you, Adam, but all of that seems complicated by the fact that (a) ALL teams playing for a championship have pre-printed gear, thus enabling them to be put on moments after the final out; and (b) Puerto Rico’s celebration plans were not contingent on winning or losing. In fact, they went ahead and had a parade/celebration even though they lost. The WBC was a big deal to them in ways it simply wasn’t to the U.S., so it makes sense.

Yadier Molina of Team Puerto Rico did not take kindly to Jones’ comments. He tells ESPN Deportes this:

“Adam Jones … is talking about things he doesn’t know about,” Molina told ESPN. “He really has to get informed because he shouldn’t have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made . . . He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people,” Molina said. “Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn’t know what this means to [our] people.”

Kind of a messy little controversy, eh?

My feeling about it is that Jones probably didn’t know the whole story about Puerto Rico’s plans and misinterpreted celebration for arrogance. I also suspect that most players motivate themselves in all manner of irrational ways like this, but we just don’t hear about it all that much. Jones can do whatever he wants to psych himself up, but it changes the equation a bit when you talk about it to the press. Perceived slights that an athlete uses internally can seem petty once exposed to the light of day.

Either way: Jones does not have a reputation for being insulting or disrespectful, so I seriously doubt that was his intent here. I also think that, while Molina has a right to be miffed, the “he must apologize to the Puerto Rican people” thing is laying it on a bit thick. Maybe Jones can just text Molina and some P.R. players and say he was sorry, followed by a “we’re all good, man” and this can end? That makes the most sense.

If not, well, the Orioles do play the Cardinals in an interleague series this summer, so maybe we’ll see some fireworks.