Wrigley rooftop owners go to court to block signs' installation

and Contact ReporterChicago Tribune
Rooftop owners seek temporary restraining order to stop Wrigley advertising.

The owners of two Wrigley rooftop businesses went to court Thursday to stop the Cubs from installing a video scoreboard and advertising signs on the outfield walls that will block their views into Wrigley Field.

The owners, led by Edward McCarthy, run the Lakeview Baseball Club, 3633 N. Sheffield Ave., and Skybox at Sheffield, 3627 N. Sheffield Ave. They filed a federal lawsuit last month against the Cubs, accusing the team of anti-competitive behavior and violating the terms of a 20-year contract that allowed rooftop businesses to charge admission to watch games from their bird's-eye viewpoint.

McCarthy's group said the team's action has created a "life-or-death situation," and the owners want a temporary restraining order because they say their businesses will be destroyed before the case goes to trial. It's a short-term fix as the lawsuit seeks a judge to permanently bar the Cubs from blocking views into Wrigley.

"Simply put, without views into Wrigley Field there is no rooftop business — a fact that the Cubs organization has frequently pointed out while trying to strong-arm the plaintiffs and others into selling out," according to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs' lawyer Thomas Lombardo of Di Monte and Lizak.

A Cubs spokesman said the team was reviewing the court filing and had no comment.

The group wants a judge to hear the request Wednesday. An approval would further delay the rebuilding of the bleachers, the first phase of a $375 million renovation of the 101-year-old stadium. Because of weather and other issues, the Cubs have said the new bleachers won't be ready for the April 5 season opener.

The Wrigley rehab includes the installation of two large-scale video scoreboards and four advertising signs across the back of the new bleachers aimed at generating more revenue from the stadium. Renderings of the outfield signs released by the Cubs show the right-field video scoreboard blocking views from the rooftops suing the team.

Under the 2004 revenue-sharing agreement, the team is prohibited from obstructing rooftops' views into the stadium through 2023, court papers say.

The plaintiffs also argued that the proposed signs have already harmed their 2015 ticket sales and will reduce the value of their properties.

The proposed signs have led two rooftop owners to sell their properties and businesses to the Ricketts family, the team's owner. The Rickettses would like to acquire more rooftops businesses.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the rooftop businesses, they have attracted new investors.

Jerry Lasky and Murray Peretz, partners in a Chicago commercial real estate business, have purchased some of the distressed mortgage debt of two buildings on Sheffield Avenue, the Tribune has learned.

The buildings at 3617-19 N. Sheffield Ave. and 3637 N. Sheffield Ave. are in receivership. The lender Fifth Third Bank started foreclosure proceedings on the properties in November after the owners of two buildings missed debt payments on some $18 million in mortgages and loans.

Court papers filed this week in the Fifth Third suit show that the receiver communicated with Lasky last month. Lasky and Peretz acquired part of the multimillion-dollar mortgages the owners of the rooftop businesses owe Fifth Third, a source said Thursday.

Lasky declined to comment. He is a longtime fixture in Chicago real estate. In the 1980s, Lasky helped open a handful of bars and restaurants, including the original Hunt Club with retired Chicago Bear Gary Fencik.

Lasky and Peretz are the principals at Spectrum Real Estate, which they formed in 1990, and own seven office buildings in River North, according to the company's website.

jahopkins@tribpub.com

asachdev@tribpub.com

Twitter @jaredhopkins

Twitter @ameetsachdev

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
32°