How about those Cubs?
Not the team, which is doing great, but the ballpark. Wrigley Field is looking pretty terrific, too, and its costly restoration and renovation — somewhat miraculously — is not being done on your dime.
This is how free enterprise is supposed to work. A business puts its own money on the line, assumes the risks and reaps the potential rewards.
But Chicago, like most big cities, has had a bad habit of throwing tax breaks and tax dollars at sports arenas that mostly benefit private enterprise. We’re thinking of Soldier Field, U.S. Cellular Field and the upcoming DePaul basketball arena.
For five years, two successive owners of the Chicago Cubs tried to finagle a similar deal for Wrigley. They wanted you, the taxpayer, to subsidize Wrigley’s overdue overhaul.
But common sense, for once, prevailed.
Why, we asked in a string of editorials, should Chicago taxpayers fork over a single dollar to help one of the most financially successful teams in professional sports?
It’s not as if the Cubs would be dumb enough to forsake Wrigley Field or let it go to ruin. Half the secret of the Cubs’ popularity during all those years when the team was terrible was the charm of the old ballpark.
Fortunately, the Cubs’ current owners, the Ricketts family, quit asking for a taxpayer handout. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made it clear that would never happen — good for him — and maybe the Ricketts got tired of being hypocrites. Joe Ricketts, the family patriarch, is a big conservative who preaches the virtues of the free market. Now, finally, the Ricketts are walking the talk.
The downside for Cubs fans has been higher prices for everything. Two hot dogs will set you back $11.50. Two beers cost $15.50. GOBankingRates.com, a personal finance website, recently ranked Wrigley the second-most-expensive ballpark in the United States.
But if the Cubs keep playing the way they have, nobody will much complain.
There’s a lesson here: Chicago should believe in itself more. Subsidies to private businesses should be pinched and rare. Sell the city’s many virtues and stop selling out the taxpayer.
Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: @csteditorials