It sounded like something of a "Sophie's Choice" for the Chicago Cubs: History, or profit.
Looking to protect the business interests — and unobstructed ballpark views — of his constituents and donors in the Wrigley Rooftop Association, the Sun-Times reported Tuesday night that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) suggested the Cubs tear down the iconic centerfield scoreboard and replace it with a money-making digital version.
“Put it in centerfield. Make it as big as you want,” a source close to the negotiations quoted the alderman as saying, according to the Sun-Times.
But Tunney denied the Sun-Times report Wednesday afternoon, telling CBS Chicago, "No one seriously talked about destroying the landmark scoreboard. It was never in anyone’s discussion whatsoever."
CBS earlier reported the Cubs do want a new Jumbotron at Wrigley for revenue and instant replay viewing. WGN reports the digital scoreboard could bring in millions in revenue and not block the view from rooftop clubs, which has been a major sticking point with the alderman.
One Chicago-based sports marketing consultant, however, told the Sun-Times Tunney's suggestion tips his hand too much. Marc Ganis described the alderman's suggestion as a “desperate ploy” and proof-positive of “where the alderman’s loyalties lie."
Among the items the Ricketts family is seeking city approval for is the addition of digital outfield billboards to pull in ad revenue. Tunney has argued such displays would block views of the field from the rooftop seats and effectively kill off the business.
The rooftop owners' group pitched the team a proposal of their own, offering to let the Cubs sell ads on their buildings in a profit-sharing partnership. The Cubs roundly rejected the proposal and remain locked in a battle with the alderman, whose ward encompasses Wrigley, as opening day creeps closer.
The 27-foot high green scoreboard that Tunney allegedly suggested yanking is turned by hand and remains one of the last ballpark scoreboards of its kind, along with Fenway Park in Boston, in the nation.
Complicating the issue of any tear down is Wrigley Field's national landmark status, which prohibits modification of the scoreboard, first installed in 1937.