Judge denies rooftop owners’ request to stop installation of Wrigley outfield signs
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The perennially challenged Cubs breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after a federal judge refused to grant an emergency request by the owners of a pair of Wrigley Field rooftops to stop the team’s installation of outfield signs that would block their valuable view.
The victory may be fleeting, however, as the case will be back in court in the coming weeks. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall vowed to settle the matter before the team’s April 5th home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Apart from the federal case, a civil suit brought by rooftop owners in Cook County Circuit Court is pending against the city.
Kendall ruled that the “vague possibility” rooftop owners could be injured by the Cubs’ installation of the signs wasn’t enough to issue a restraining order against the team that would halt construction.
She noted that rooftop owners had not provided bottom-line documentation showing that ballpark construction had resulted in a “complete lack of income that would cause their businesses to collapse.”
Construction at Wrigley, which was being carried out Thursday morning by hard-hatted laborers as the judge delivered her ruling, will continue, said Dennis Culloton, spokesman for the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the ruling and grateful that the judge is showing such concern for opening day,” Culloton said.
Workers will continue to erect the infrastructure that will support the new signs, including the heavily contested video board the Cubs want to erect near the right field foul pole that rooftop owners complain would obstruct their view, Culloton said.
“The exact date for when the signs are going to go up has a lot to do with how much they can get done in these weather conditions, but we are moving aggressively to get everything done as soon as possible,” Culloton said.
Culloton didn’t know if the approximately 2,500-square-foot sign slated for right field had been delivered to the ballpark yet.
During a four-hour hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for the two rooftop businesses, Skybox and the Lakeview Baseball Club, reiterated their arguments that the Cubs’ plans are in violation antitrust laws as well as a 2004 revenue-sharing agreement they signed with the rooftop owners.
They argued to the judge that if she did not immediately block installation of the signs until a fuller hearing of the issue next month, the rooftop businesses would not be able to survive because they would be unable to sell tickets to corporate clients who plan events months in advance.
“Without the views they have nothing to sell,” attorney Thomas Lombardo said.
Lawyers for the Cubs argued that the Cubs have the right to install the signs, and that the rooftops could continue to argue their case in court while the signs are installed.
Cubs attorney Andrew Kassof denied the Cubs were attempting to create an illegal monopoly over rooftop pricing, saying earlier this week that the “the point is to renovate Wrigley Field to generate revenues to make a better product, get better players on the field and win a World Series.”
Contributing: Kim Janssen