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Fed judge tosses rooftop owners' lawsuit against the Cubs

A view from the upper deck stands at Wrigley Field shows the rooftop bleachers outside the right field wall along Sheffield Avenue across from the ballpark before a Chicago Cubs baseball game in Chicagoin 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

The playoff-bound Chicago Cubs won another big victory Wednesday, but it won’t help them in October.

U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall dismissed a federal lawsuit filed against the Cubs earlier this year by Wrigleyville rooftop owners who accused the Cubs of monopolization, defamation and breach of contract for erecting a new video board above the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field that threatened to block the rooftops’ lucrative views.

The same judge dashed the hopes of those rooftop owners six months ago when she originally refused to ban the Cubs from installing the outfield signs. That earlier decision allowing work to commence might have been the decisive twist in the bitter public battle of the $575 million redevelopment of Wrigley, but Wednesday’s order aimed to bring it to a close.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said in a statement that the North Siders were pleased with the ruling.

“Judge Kendall’s opinion confirms the bleacher expansion does not violate our rooftop agreements, as we have maintained from the outset,” Kenney said. “We also appreciate that with this chapter closed, everyone’s focus can continue to be on the field, where it belongs.”

Lawyers for Right Field Rooftops LLC could not immediately be reached for comment.

In her ruling late Wednesday, the judge made note of the “embattled relationship” between the rooftop owners and the Cubs, who she said “continually clash over the rooftops’ patrons viewing live Cubs games.”

She rejected Right Field Rooftops’ argument that the construction of the video board violated an agreement between the Cubs and the rooftop owners. The contract allows for “any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities,” but the owners argued that “any expansion” refers only to increased seating.

She also found that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts merely expressed an opinion, and didn’t allege criminal activity by the rooftop owners, when he made a comment at a Cubs Convention comparing the rooftops to “your neighbor looking through your window watching your television.”

Finally, Kendall shot down the argument that the Cubs had attempted to monopolize their own baseball games.

“The product at issue is the Cubs presentation of live baseball games, which is the product of the Cubs alone that thus cannot be monopolized by the Cubs,” Kendall wrote.