LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts doesn’t know when construction will start on the revenue-producing Wrigley Field renovations – already delayed years from the original plan.
He declined Tuesday to give an update on TV-rights negotiations many in the organization consider critical for the team’s short- and mid-term ability to spend enough on players to turn a competitive corner.
And on the day he showed up at the winter meetings at Disney World, he seemed so far removed from the rebuilding process Theo Epstein and his staff are undertaking that the idea of “syncing up” the baseball and business plans that Epstein keeps talking about sounded foreign to him.
“I’m not sure what timelines exactly anyone’s referring to,” said Ricketts, whose baseball department has acknowledged pushing back its original rough projections for competing. “We would have liked to get the stadium started sooner. That’s an important part of our future. But it’s a long process and we’re just going to play through and do what we have to do.”
Ricketts was conspicuously vague on several fronts even as he awaits anticipated approval of most of the remaining stadium plan issues at Wednesday’s regular full City Council meeting.
On the TV rights negotiations for the WGN share of Cubs games: “I have nothing to report on that.”
On whether the team is closer to resolving its dispute with rooftop owners (the final thing he says is holding up the start of construction): “There’s been a lot of different ideas thrown out. I’m not sure where we’re at in terms of closer or farther.”
On whether it’s only “a couple” of rooftops affected by the stadium plan: “It depends. There’s a lot of conversations, but nothing definitive.”
On when the baseball operations department will have the resources for – as Epstein put it last week — “dictating all those big moves” that other teams are doing now: “I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s about [that]. It’s about just making the team better. We’ll have to decide where and when he wants to do that.”
About the only things he seemed certain about were:
— No plans for installing the left-field video board ahead of the other changes. “I think we’re looking at everything as a package,” he said.
— No commitment anymore to make the player-facility improvements — such as new batting cages, clubhouse and weight room – the first round of major renovations to Wrigley. “I’m not certain what all the staging is at this point,” he said. “Obviously, we have a lot to do and we want to do it as quickly as possible. Those are important things. I’m not sure exactly when everything happens.”
— No wavering in his confidence in Epstein, his staff and their plan two years – and two managers – into the process. “Absolutely,” he said. “We’re doing the right stuff. Absolutely.”