Seventh Circuit Hears Arguments from Rooftop Owners over Cubs Blocking Stadium Sight Lines
The ongoing legal battle between the Chicago Cubs and the owners of the iconic rooftops near Wrigley Field entered extra innings on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. The two teams fielded their heavy hitters for arguments in front of the Seventh Circuit over whether the Cubs broke a contractual duty in blocking the stadium sight lines from the rooftops. In 2004, both sides agreed to a 20-year contract in which the Cubs would not block for obstruct the views from the roofs and each rooftop owner would share 17 percent of the rooftop’s gross revenue.
Two previous attempts by the owners to block the Cubs renovations struck out in the early stages of litigation. The first attempt, in 2014, was dismissed since the Supreme Court has ruled Major League Baseball is immune from antitrust claims. In the second dismissal, in 2015, the judge upheld her previous ruling and stated any amended complaint would not pass the immunity test. The judge also stated the construction of the videoboard is not in violation of the 2004 contract. The contracts ambiguous language has led the two sides to argue over what “any expansion” of Wrigley Field means. The argument on Tuesday was an appeal of that decision.
The Cubs allege their new videoboard was positioned at the recommendation of the National Park Service. Some rooftop owners allege the placement was to purposefully obstruct their sight lines. New Cubs owner, the Ricketts family, threw a curve ball into the dispute by purchasing some rooftops. The Ricketts recently purchased their 11th rooftop for $3.5 million; they have spent over $20 million thus far. There are a total of 16 rooftops with views into the stadium. Earlier this year a previous rooftop owner was sentenced to 18 months for not disclosing more than a $1 million in revenue to work around the 17 percent gross revenue sharing plan.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the Seventh Circuit judges were quick to pick off the owners’ argument that the rooftops are not part of the Major League Baseball monopoly, and thus, not immune. The case, as the Judge Easterbrook noted, revolves around a videoboard in the ballpark.