The Chicago Cubs, one of the most popular and lucrative sports franchises in the United States despite their unmatched record of failure, may be getting financial help to renovate historic Wrigley Field from its cash-strapped city.
As the Cubs take the field this week for what may be the 104th straight season without a World Series championship, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has triggered speculation — and raised some eyebrows — by confirming that city officials and the Cub-owning Ricketts family are in the "final stages" of talks on a renovation plan for the 98-year-old ballpark that could include public help.
Neither Emanuel nor anyone else is talking specifics. Given the economic climate, the last thing public officials want to start throwing around is any hint that taxpayers struggling to pay their bills might be asked to help a business that attracts more fans than all but a handful of teams.
"This is not in the course of history the best time to ask for public money for a sports facility," said Al Yellon, who has a Cubs-themed website. "The economy doesn't really support that."
At the same time, Wrigley Field is one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago and that has been a huge reason why the surrounding neighborhood is one of the most popular spots to live.
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