By Kristy Kennedy, Special to the Tribune
June 17, 2013
What if the Chicago Cubs leave Wrigley Field for the suburbs and DuPage County officials hadn't courted the team? That's the question one Naperville business leader posed to explain why suburban leaders are working together to find a DuPage County alternative for the Ricketts family to consider.
"We would all be ashamed of ourselves if something did happen and they did leave and we didn't have our name in at the table and in that conversation," said Mike Evans, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "We all know that in Illinois, the what-ifs sometimes happen."
Evans made his remarks at a discussion Thursday with Naperville Chamber members and DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin, who revealed this week his intention to try to lure the Chicago Cubs to DuPage County.
"I have no illusion … I think chances are they will come to terms with the City of Chicago," Cronin said. "I'm not injecting myself into this or the county of DuPage to give the Ricketts family leverage. What do I care? I'm doing this genuinely and really and truly on behalf of the county because I think there is a realistic business opportunity. I would be remiss in my responsibility if we didn't put something together that was attractive that offered them an alternative."
DuPage County officials are contacting owners of viable DuPage locations for a baseball stadium and he would like to present a proposal by Aug. 1, Cronin said. He has said there are at least two possibilities, sites with more than 40 acres near commuter rail lines.
Through their spokesman, the Ricketts family has said there are no plans to listen to other proposals and that the family is focused on Chicago.
Cronin said he was moved to act after seeing how the Chicago City Council responded to the Cubs request for more night games.
"Based on what I've observed, I think the city has put the Ricketts family through the wringer," Cronin said. "I think we could offer them something better."
While DuPage County doesn't have a the nostalgia of the current Wrigleyville location, Cronin said there would be many perks for the team. He mentioned $17 million in savings from not having to pay an amusement tax, easy parking for fans and a more family friendly environment. He also described DuPage County as a better place to do business. "This guy is putting $500 million of his own money into this," Cronin said. "Imagine what we could do with that in DuPage County."
He admitted he had a personal interest, too, lamenting the 1½ hours it took to get home to Elmhurst from a Cubs-White Sox game he attended with his son. "It's a royal pain in the neck," Cronin said.
Plus, the idea is just plain fun. "We provide incentives and all kinds of things for hotels and convention centers. Why wouldn't you have the same conversations about the attraction itself?" Evans said. "It's a fun conversation to be in. I am a Cubs fan."
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