Wrigley Field rooftop owners sue Chicago over proposed view-blocking billboards


(Beth A. Keiser/AP)

The good old days of being able to view a Cubs game from a rooftop overlooking Chicago’s Wrigley Field may be coming to an end. But the owners of eight of those rooftop clubs aren’t giving up their vistas without a fight — they filed suit Thursday against the city of Chicago and its Landmarks Commission and asked a judge to overturn the panel’s recent decision to allow the Cubs to build seven signs in the outfield, the Chicago Tribune reports:

The rooftop owners want to block the team from putting up the signs because, the lawsuit argues, they would violate the landmark ordinance protecting Wrigley Field features.

The 2004 ordinance specifies protected features of the ballpark, including “the unenclosed, open-air character, the exposed structural system and the generally uninterrupted ‘sweep’ and contour of the grandstand and bleachers.”

The Cubs are not named in the lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, and the complaint does not claim any violation of the team’s contract with rooftop owners, which guaranteed their views into the ballpark in exchange for 17 percent of the clubs’ annual revenues.

Important to note: not all Wrigley rooftop club owners have signed onto the suit. This could signal disarray within the group. It was just last month that two owners said they would not file a lawsuit if the Cubs agreed to keep the new construction to just two signs, including the electronic scoreboard. In July, the Chicago Tribune identified one of those two owners as Jim Lourgos, co-owner of 3639 Wrigley Field Rooftop. His company 3639 LLC is not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The city has not commented on the suit, as it’s still under review.

Chicago natives have been taking advantage of the rooftops on Sheffield and Waveland avenues since the early 20th century, when a few dozen residents would gather on the tops of the old three-story brick buildings to watch the games for free. In the latter part of last century, however, the practice became a point of contention when people began making businesses out of the rooftops and charging people money to watch the games from newly erected bleachers. The Cubs eventually negotiated with the owners to establish the 17 percent revenue exchange. Today, many of these rooftop clubs are luxury affairs, charging hundreds of dollars for a single ticket. The proposed new billboards could “destroy” their businesses, according to the lawsuit.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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