The rooftop seating across from Wrigley Field, many contend, is as iconic as the ivy-covered brick walls inside the historic ballpark.
Unfortunately for Cubs fans, the organization hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with the neighbors on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. And it appears that could be happening again.
“The Cubs don’t give a s— about anyone,” said an attorney who represents some rooftop owners.
The attorney, who has asked not to be named, has been involved with rooftops for more than 20 years. He is upset because he said the latest renovations to Wrigley Field would end up obstructing the views of fans sitting in some of the right field rooftop seats.
Before the 2003 season, the Cubs attempted to block the rooftops’ sightlines by temporarily putting up screens behind the outfield walls. Later in the year, the club sued the buildings’ owners for copyright infringement, claiming they were stealing the team’s product for financial gains.
The stormy relationship appeared to settle in 2004 after the owners agreed to pay the Cubs 17 percent of their revenue for the next 20 years.
But tensions seem to be flaring up again after the Cubs announced plans in January to replace sections of the right field bleachers with a patio, offering fans a rooftop experience inside the stadium.
According to the Cubs, the Budweiser Patio will hold up to 150 people, but will be divided into three different 50-seat sections. Patio tickets will only be sold in group packages and will include unlimited food and drink, much like many of the rooftops.
The attorney said the patio would not affect the sightlines of the right field building he represents, but fans attending games at Skybox on Sheffield would lose about 20 feet of their views.
“There is no question about it,” the attorney said.
While he said fans would still be able to see the right fielder, they would lose sight of long fly balls.
Management at Skybox at Sheffield said they were not allowed to comment on the issue.
The attorney said, “They won’t talk back because they don’t want it to hurt their business.”
But when informed of the attorney’s accusations, the owner and CEO of Skybox on Sheffield, Marc Hamid, said they were simply untrue.
“People can say whatever they want, but we’ve had the Cubs people up there, the alderman up there, and everything is fine,” Hamid said. “Truthfully, we are at the lowest pitch of the bleachers, so our view is probably better to begin with than everybody else’s.”
Hamid also said that he had spoken with members of the Ricketts family and had no issue with the new renovations.
“They were very forthright and came out and showed us everything, so we feel comfortable,” he said. “That was good enough for us.”
Yet, the lawyer isn’t the only one questioning the height of the new structure. Tony Racky, the managing director of Lakeview Baseball Club, said he believes the patio will block sightlines.
“From my understanding, the patio will slightly obstruct the views of others,” Racky said. When asked to elaborate, Racky said he didn’t feel comfortable commenting beyond that.
J.K. Long, a manager of Murphy’s Bleachers, said the Cubs front office invited all rooftop owners into Wrigley Field to examine the patio proposal. But said it was still not clear if the patio would cause problems for his Sheffield Avenue neighbors.
“I can’t speak for other places,” Long said, “but it won’t affect ours.”
Julian Green, the Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs, declined to comment on the situation.
Green said he said he did not know if the Budweiser Patio obstructed views, but vowed to get an answer from other members of the front office.
Multiple follow-up calls to Green were not returned, and all other calls about the issue to the Cubs front office were redirected back to Green.
The attorney, who said he hid his name for fear of backlash, said one reason the Cubs won’t talk is because the Ricketts family doesn’t care about the fans or the rooftop owners.
He pointed to the fact that not one member of the owners’ family attended the 2012 Wrigley Field annual advisory public meeting on Feb. 27 in Lakeview.
“All of the bigwigs were there – even the alderman – but not the Ricketts family,” the attorney said. “One of them should have been there just to be seen. Be sensitive to the people.”
Max Bever, the director of communication and community outreach for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), confirmed that not one member of the Ricketts family was present at the meeting.
However, he said he was surprised to hear the attorney’s claim because no concerns about the new right field patio were expressed at the meeting. In fact, Bever disputed every accusation made about the potential obstructed views.
“There is no change in the dimension or height of the right field area,” Bever said. “It will not present any issues for rooftop owners.”
The attorney disagrees.
Regardless of whether the views are obstructed, all rooftop owners might have to reconsider their business models if the Budweiser Patio begins to lure their regulars inside the stadium.
Lifelong Cubs fan Bryan Macfarlane, who lives one block from Wrigley Field, said he attended several rooftop games last year, but would be willing to change his attendance habits if the price is right.
“When I have gone to rooftop games in the past, I do it not for a rooftop feel, but for the unlimited booze and food you get as part of the package,” Macfarlane said. “If the park itself could imitate what’s outside the park for a similar price, it’s definitely an alternative I’d be interested in.”
The Cubs have yet to release ticket prices for the new patio seats. But owners don’t seem too fazed by Macfarlane’s comments.
“Yes, it will give the Cubs a nice option in the ballpark,” said Jim Lourgos, owner of 3639 Wrigley Rooftop. “But our clients have a lot of different amenities, including indoor seating and outdoor seating, so I don’t think it will have any impact. It’s just a different experience than what the Cubs will be offering.”
People with patio seating will probably enjoy the new experience, but they will still enjoy the rooftop experience too.”
Hamid shared a similar sentiment but also added that the rooftops are generally targeted at the more upscale fans.
“Your average fan is going to get a nice bang for his buck inside the stadium,” Hamid said. “But we have higher-end beer and food, nice bathrooms and an air conditioned atmosphere. So we’re not driven by the average fan – we’re driven by corporate.”
Others connected to the rooftops agree that the 150-seat patio will not substantially affect business. However, they are all in agreement that a winning product on the field would help remove any doubts.
“I heard the patio may block some of the rooftop views, but I don’t think it will ruin the rooftops’ business,” said Dan Altizer, a bartender and server at Beyond the Ivy for the last five years. “I feel like as long as the Cubs are doing good business, the rooftops will too.”
Even as one of the Cubs biggest skeptics, the attorney agrees that seeing the W flag flapping in the wind more often will make everyone happier.
“If the Cubs do well, this will blow over,” the attorney said.
The manager at Murphy’s Bleachers took it one step further, saying all changes to Wrigley Field should be welcomed with open arms.
“You will never get the same experience in the stadium as you get on the rooftop,” Long said. “But I think the more that they do for Wrigley — the better experience people have coming down – the more people will follow.”
In the attorney’s mind, the owners don’t have many other options when it comes to bringing in more revenue. “Ricketts’ problem is that he can’t afford to go build somewhere else, so he ticks off a lot of people with this bull—-.”
Rooftop patrons will know for sure who is correct at the home opener on April 5.