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Cubs fans are not ATMs

June 25, 2012|By Matt Lindner | For RedEye

A quick note to the Ricketts family—if you had enough money to buy the Cubs without relying on public aid to help you close the deal, you have enough money to fix up Wrigley Field without our help.

Somewhere along the line, the public stopped being a potential fan base for professional sports franchises and more of a personal piggybank for billionaires looking to pad their bottom lines. The Rickettses, despite claiming to be a family of the people, are no different. Right now, they want the already severely cash-strapped city of Chicago to chip in $150 million to help renovate Wrigley and develop the area surrounding it, largely so they can make more money.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

This request for public funds comes at a time when the city has more pressing issues than a crumbling relic where ownership has consistently failed to put a product justifying high ticket prices—$95 face value for a bleacher seat? Really?—that it charges the taxpayers whose money it so desperately needs for entrance.

The argument is that by chipping in taxpayer money to spruce up Wrigley and kick-start other business ventures around the area, the county and state will help the family create thousands of jobs and stimulate the local economy.

I've got a better idea. Why don't Tom and the rest of the Ricketts children learn a lesson from the 20-somethings who shell out hard-earned ducats for a bleacher seat every summer, regardless of how awful the product on the field is?

The Rickettses can create those jobs by swallowing their pride and hitting up their parents for a loan, much like thousands of us have had to do to pay the bills. It's not like dear old dad can't afford it—he is the billionaire founder of Ameritrade, after all, and wanted to spend tens of millions on a superPAC to unseat President Obama.

Right now, the Cubs need all the good PR they can get. The Ricketts family paying to renovate the house they themselves bought instead of relying on the general populace to do so would be worth their investment 10 times over in taxpayer goodwill.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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