The Wrigley Rooftops Need Better Legal Counsel

July 9, 2014

I have been keeping up with interest on the ongoing saga that is the Cubs vs. Wrigley Rooftop owners. The latest story, other than the Rooftop owners offering a “two sign” concession to the Cubs, is that the recent Rooftop defamation lawsuit against a local sports consultant was thrown out of court.

When you get a suit thrown out of court that quickly, you’ve probably put up a weak argument. At least, that’s the perception.

If you’re unfamiliar with the background of this, briefly, the Cubs wanted to expand the bleacher seating at Wrigley Field back in 2004. Suddenly the owners of the buildings across the street on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, who had been charging people to watch Cubs games from the roofs of their homes, were risking being put out of business with no view of the game to sell.

Out of a grudging recognition for the fact that they were selling a product that technically wasn’t theirs to sell, the Rooftop owners inked a contract with the Cubs. In the deal, they agreed to share 17% of their revenues with the team, and the Cubs agreed not to block their view. This deal is in place until 2023.

Fast forward to 2014 and the current effort to renovate Wrigley. The Cubs are pushing for a Jumbotron, video screen, super-sized whatever, along with several large signs to help pay for it all, which would most certainly will block the view of the field from several of the Rooftops.

When I read comments in articles about this, most fans side with the Cubs, on the grounds that it’s their product and the Rooftop owners have essentially been stealing it. With all due respect, I’m not in that camp.

Regardless of the fact that the Cubs do indeed own the product, they signed this contract and thus far have probably benefited handsomely from the rooftop sales, with essentially zero investment on their part.

Yet now, with the prospect of raking in a much more substantial amount of money with a big scoreboard, the Cubs are almost acting as if there is nothing in their contract with the Rooftops that prevents them from doing just that—when in fact preserving the view was pretty much the Cubs’ whole end of the agreement.

Here is the specific clause regarding the Cubs blocking the Rooftops’ views:

6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this Agreement, including this section.

I’m no lawyer, which is one reason I have so many friends. So while I can’t claim legal expertise, I read this and ask why in the world aren’t the Rooftop owners citing this very clause in the contract, which is pretty specific until the last sentence?

I’d also like to know how their attorneys allowed that last sentence in this clause, which potentially nullifies the rest of it, requiring the Cubs only to prove that their huge new Jumbotron is considered “expansion”. Which, I expect, they will manage to do, but that ultimately makes the language of this clause weaselly, for lack of a better word.

Again, this part of it was almost the entire end of the Cubs’ part of the deal.

Instead, the Rooftop owners made themselves look patently ridiculous suing Chicago sports consultant Marc Ganis for defamation. Ganis was quoted in a Chicago Sun-Times story as calling the Rooftop owners “carpetbaggers stealing the product paid for by others for their own profit”.

Ganis was not even associated with the Cubs, at least not officially, so why were the Rooftops wasting their legal resources fighting someone exercising his First Amendment right? The only answer I can think is that they associate Ganis with the Cubs, which would violate this part of the contract:

8.2 The Cubs will not publicly disparage, abuse, or insult the business of any Rooftop or the moral character of any Rooftop or any Rooftop employee.

Even if that were the case, I still think it was a poor legal move that turned out embarrassingly bad for the Rooftop owners. It reeks of flailing when, in my opinion anyway, the Rooftop owners have a perfectly valid legal leg to stand on with the deal they signed onto with the Cubs.

Most all of the Rooftop owners have made significant investments into their homes to accommodate groups of people watching Cubs games from a unique perspective. They did so based on that contract, and they now stand to lose that investment. The property values of the homes on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, while probably still remaining more than I could afford, will likely plummet if there is no view inside Wrigley Field from them.

That is what the Rooftops are facing, and their legal response to it has been utterly baffling to me.

Whatever you think, follow the story. It’s entertaining drama, and it’s going to be Wrigley and Cubs history someday.

Reaching 203

June 28, 2014

Joe Mock at the Rickwood Classic in Birmingham, Alabama

Fans whose yearly vacations revolve around a baseball road trip probably know the name Joe Mock. If they don’t, they should.

Mock is the author and webmaster at, the premier website for baseball roadtrippers. He is also the author of 2001’s "Joe Mock's Ballpark Guide", a delightfully illustrated book about the 30 MLB parks in use at the time. He regularly contributes to USA Today’s Sports Weekly about the North Amer...
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Cool New Stuff at Citizens Bank Park

March 28, 2014
It’s pretty cool to park in Lot S at Citizens Bank Park, even if there isn’t a ballgame going on.

Lot S is the Media Lot, and yes, expert that I am on all things Citizens Bank Park, I didn’t know that either.

Thanks to Ken Dunek and JerseyMan Magazine, and to the kindness of the Philadelphia Phillies, I was invited to a Phillies 2014 Media Event, where the Phillies and the nice Aramark folks tell hungry newspeople what’s new at the ballpark this year. Oh, and to share hot dogs with chee...
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Baseball’s Biggest Loss of 2014

March 9, 2014
Few things were funnier than my father’s occasional profanity-laden philosophy.

Before baseball's last collective bargaining agreement, I asked him if he would quit watching if the players went on strike again. Like everyone else, he was angry as hell about 1994 and once said to me that he wouldn't care if he never saw another millionaire play baseball again.

But this time he said, "You know Kurt, I've been thinking about that. In life you have to give up ****. I gave up smoking, I gave up d...
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StubHub’s “All-In” Pricing

January 31, 2014

Recently I received an e-mail from the nice folks at StubHub, informing me that the ticket resale giant now features “all-in” pricing, meaning that the price you see listed on the screen is the actual price that you’ll pay for the ticket.

In their page describing the format, StubHub compares the ticket pricing structure to “a well-known competitor” that adds a couple of fees to the original price of the ticket, so that the consumer ends up paying $72 for a $54 ticket.

Wonder who that ...
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Metal Detectors at Ballparks

January 28, 2014
Recently it was announced that all of the MLB venues will be requiring fans to go through security screenings to get into the ballpark starting in 2015. Fans must either walk through a magnetometer or have someone use a wand on them.

My first thought, which would surprise no one who knows me, is the scene from the movie “The Naked Gun”. Leslie Nielsen is attempting to provide security for the queen, and at one point takes one of the metal wands and noisily and forcefully runs it all over a...

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The Limitations of Big Apple Ballparks

January 22, 2014

As I write this, my friend Paul Swaney at Stadium Journey is preparing for an interview with the Wall Street Journal. (Here is the link.) The subject? Why New York City hasn’t been able to turn out a great stadium.

Perhaps the folks at WSJ don’t think as highly of Citi Field as they might of, say, PNC Park in Pittsburgh or AT&T Park in San Francisco. I’m not sure exactly how the subject came up, but it raises an interesting point.

There might be some who disagree with the premise that N...
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Touching ‘Em All

October 31, 2013
Despite my not often paralleled ballpark geekdom, most people are surprised to learn that there are still ten existing major league ballparks that I have not yet visited. Yes, I can tell you all about the tailgating in Milwaukee or the obstructed views in Boston or the game day scene in Wrigleyville, but I still cannot yet share with you how AT&T Park and Safeco Field compare to the best.

Well, Eric Kabakoff can. He’s been visiting different ballparks now for four decades, and he’s see...

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The Ballpark Cyclist

October 26, 2013
Greetings Ballpark E-Guides readers! I know I haven’t updated this blog in a while, but of course it doesn’t mean I don’t still love you. I just haven’t had the time, so to speak. True. I’ll do better in the future, I promise.

Anyway I wanted to share a great story that I’ve found.

Many of us fans dream of a trip to see every ballpark, but Jacob Landis did something that I doubt has ever been done…he bicycled to each one of them in one season. In fact, I’m positive that...

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A Baseball Road Trip With The Family

July 19, 2013
This is a guest post from my friend Jake Cain at the excellent website Ballpark Savvy. I've learned more than a few tricks from Jake, so I'm happy to welcome this guest post from him.

If you have a family of sports fans, perhaps no vacation brings more excitement than a summer baseball road trip! What could be better than traveling from city to city taking in delicious food and watching America's favorite pastime live? The good news is, Major League Ballparks have become more kid-friendly ...

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