Spring Training has begun! The boys of summer have reported to camp and pre-season games are underway. While major league teams are preparing for the coming baseball season in sunny Arizona and Florida, the Chicago Cubs baseball club has started its season in federal court in Illinois. The Cubs are renovating historic Wrigley Field, which includes adding a large video board and signs in the outfield. The new video board and signs happen to block the view of the field for neighbors beyond right field who have rooftop businesses that provide patrons with food, drinks and views of Wrigley Field events. The rooftop businesses have sued the Cubs to stop construction. They have also sued the City of Chicago and the City’s Landmark Commission for approving the renovation to the ballpark in the first place.
In their suit against the Cubs, the rooftop businesses have alleged that the Cubs are violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by strategically constructing the video board and signs in locations that block the views of the rooftop businesses, while not blocking views from other rooftops that the Cubs own or control. The rooftop businesses have also alleged that the Cubs’ renovations violate a 2004 settlement agreement between the Cubs and the rooftop owners, which provided that the rooftop owners would pay the Cubs a royalty based on gross revenues in return for unobstructed views of the field.
Last month, the rooftop businesses sought a temporary restraining order against the Cubs to halt construction of the video board and signs. After considering arguments from both sides, the federal judge threw the rooftop businesses a curve and denied their request for a TRO. The judge ruled that the rooftop businesses failed to satisfy their burden of proving immediate and irreparable harm from the construction, because the businesses did not provide evidence of potential loss of income.
The ruling is not a home run for the Cubs, however. A further hearing is scheduled for March 23 to determine whether the rooftop businesses are entitled to a preliminary injunction to halt construction. With opening day in Wrigley Field scheduled for April 5, and with renovations reportedly behind schedule, the Cubs will be hoping to turn a double play and prevail again so the renovation can be completed.
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