Blagojevich opposed to Zell sale



By Deanna Bellandi

CHICAGO – Well-known Chicago Cubs fan Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Thursday he’ll do all he can to keep the team playing at Wrigley Field as billionaire owner Sam Zell looks to sell both the team and the ballpark.

Zell has been interested in selling the 94-year-old landmark to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, a state-city agency.

“I believe the Cubs ought to play baseball at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs ought to play baseball at Wrigley Field forever and that if there’s anything that I can do in the role of governor to try to guarantee and assure that the Cubs stay at Wrigley Field – as long as we don’t use taxpayer dollars to make that happen – then that’s good for the people of Illinois,” said Blagojevich, who is just back from a trip to the Cubs’ spring training home in Arizona.

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, ISFA chairman, is said to be expected to make a formal offer to Zell soon to acquire and renovate the park.

Zell’s plan to sell the Cubs and the ballpark are months behind schedule.

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Thompson, who did not immediately return a call Thursday, has said he’s determined to get a deal that won’t cost taxpayers anything. Illinois lawmakers have questioned the idea of using state money when economic times are tough.

The state needs to first work out a school construction and infrastructure bill for capital projects around the state, said Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is in Arizona on vacation and ran into Blagojevich at a Scottsdale restaurant with Cubs manager Lou Piniella and general manager Jim Hendry.

Until then “it’s very politically difficult to do some deal that involves Wrigley Field,” Dillard said.

Blagojevich said they are looking at “creative ways” for a Wrigley deal that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars. He compared it to the refurbishment of Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox play.

“My position’s very simple: Cubs play at Wrigley Field, new owner has to keep the Cubs at Wrigley Field, no taxpayer dollars,” Blagojevich said at a news conference.

Cubs fans have been in a tizzy about the prospect of a name change for Wrigley.

When Blagojevich was asked if state support for any deal should hinge on the park’s name, he said: “It should be Wrigley Field and let’s see how discussions go.”