The makeshift, relatively primitive setting provided the perfect symbolism for Wrigley's imperfections that make pouring $500 million of Ricketts money into a community project so sensible and necessary.
"I always believed and still believe it's in everyone's best interest to do what's right for Wrigley Field,'' Ricketts said. "Not only economically, but it's a special place and has a special role in baseball history.''
It was special enough that Ricketts left millions on the table by negotiating exclusively with the city. Surely, they didn't teach Ricketts to let his heart guide his head when he earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. But by reaching agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, without ever entertaining the idea of investing his family's half-billion dollars elsewhere for a greater return, Ricketts reaffirmed his commitment to Chicago.
Is Chicago as committed to Ricketts? Or is the city's love for baseball's lovable losers conditional?
It will be fascinating to find out. If Ricketts doesn't like the answer at the end of the public process, the next big question could be what to do with an empty, 100-year-old ballpark.
Consider Ricketts could have picked anywhere to spend at least $500 million on a baseball village. Research showed clearer paths to profit in Rosemont or DuPage County. More than anything, tradition made Ricketts choose Clark and Addison.
Realize that if Ricketts eventually gets everything he wants, the lack of government assistance still makes the deal the worst among Chicago's five pro sports teams and the most lopsided in the majors. The two newest MLB ballparks carried similar prices: Target Field cost $435 million and Marlins Park cost $515 million, according to Forbes. Yet the Twins and Marlins both used public financing for nearly two-thirds of their respective projects.
All Ricketts really won Monday was a method that would allow him to spend his own money — but it easily represents the Cubs' most significant victory since his family bought the team.
Life as a Cubs fan conditioned Ricketts never to celebrate early, so he showed proper restraint, not clicking his heels a la Ron Santo. At first glance, the deal appeared so beneficial to the Cubs that one reporter asked Ricketts if he could name something he wanted but didn't get. He cracked: "A few free agents.''
If everything comes together for the Cubs, money will exist to spend freely on the biggest names in baseball. Besides the revenue-generating giant scoreboard and expansion of the park's perimeter included in the $300 million stadium improvements, the deal's framework allows Ricketts to develop a $200 million hotel and office building. The Cubs can add more night games, street fairs and have their property taxes adjusted after funding the restoration of a landmark. Not to mention 35,000 square feet of additional advertising outside the ballpark between the hotel and new two-story Captain Morgan Club.
In return, Ricketts pledged to improve the neighborhood by funding a $1 million play lot, paying for extra security and contributing another $3.75 million over the next decade. To Ricketts it represented a pittance for being permitted to run his business like every other entrepreneur.
That doesn't mean special-interest groups won't keep interfering. This is Chicago. A statement from the Wrigleyville Rooftops Association threatened a lawsuit that only would waste time and money, of which the Cubs always will have more.
"(Rooftop) owners reserve the right to use any and all means necessary to enforce the remaining 11 years of our 20-year contract,'' the statement said.
The Cubs want that contract to continue, too, so they can keep pocketing 17 percent of rooftop revenue from selling their stolen product. Any long court battle could come down to a judge's interpretation of obstructed views, and the Cubs moving outfield walls back to block fewer sight lines reduces their legal exposure. Besides, if contract language legally prevented signage, why has the Toyota sign been up for three years?
Of course, another less-appealing option exists for anybody in Wrigleyville still unhappy about the city letting Ricketts spend $500 million in the name of civic progress.