Wrigley Rooftops is a generic name for the rooftops of residential buildings which have bleachers or seating on them to view baseball games or other major events at Wrigley Field. Since 1914, Wrigley roofs have dotted the neighborhood of Wrigleyville around Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs play Major League Baseball. Venues on Waveland Avenue overlook left field, while those along Sheffield Avenue have a view over right field.
The rooftops had always been a gathering place for free views of the game, but until the 1980s, the observers were usually just a few dozen people watching from the flat rooftops, windows and porches of the buildings, with "seating" consisting of a few folding chairs, and with little commercial impact on the team. When the popularity of the Cubs began to rise in the 1980s, formal seating structures began to appear, and building owners began charging admission, much to the displeasure of Cubs management, who saw it as an unreasonable encroachment.
Various methods of combatting this phenomenon were discussed. The idea of a "spite fence", as with Shibe Park in Philadelphia, or the Cubs' previous home, West Side Park, was discussed. The idea was not implemented, nor was it fully abandoned. Before Opening Day in 2002, a "wind screen" was temporarily erected on the ballpark's back screen behind the outfield wall, obscuring some of the view from Wrigley roofs.
In 2002, the Cubs organization filed a lawsuit against the different facilities for copyright infringement. Since operators charge admission to use their amenities, the Cubs asserted that they were pirating a copyrighted game—normally a license would be paid for the privilege of viewing Major League Baseball—and sued for royalties. In 2004, eleven of the thirteen roofs settled with the club out of court, agreeing to pay 17% of gross revenue in exchange for official endorsement. The city also began investigating the structural integrity of the roofs, issuing citations to those in danger of collapse. With the Cubs and the neighbors reaching agreement, many of the facilities now feature seating structures: some with bleachers, some with chair seats, and even one with a steel-girdered double deck of seats (see photo). The Cubs endorsed their "Official Rooftop Partners" on their team page at MLB.com. The agreement was to last until 2023.
In 2013 principal owner Thomas S. Ricketts sought Commission on Chicago Landmarks permission to build "additional seating, new lighting, four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet and a 2,400-square-foot video board in right field." When the roof owners threatened to sue he tempered the design to just "a sign in right field and a video board in left field." After the roof owners did not rescind their threat to sue, Ricketts said in May 2014 that he would attempt to proceed with the original plan even if the matter was fought in court. Ricketts said Wrigley has "the worst player facilities in Major League Baseball." On January 20, 2015, the roof owners filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Cubs and Ricketts, citing breach of contract. The Cubs have been buying some of the properties housing the rooftops in order to try to make peace with the owners.
- "Best Seats in House Are Outside Wrigley" (PDF). New York Times. 2005-06-12.
- "Charlton's Baseball Chronology". www.baseballlibrary.com. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- "The roof as a copyright infringement tool". 2002-12-22.
- "Team to receive portion of rooftop revenue". ESPN.com. 2004-01-12.
- "Wrigley Field Information - Rooftop Partners | cubs.com: ballpark". Chicago.cubs.mlb.com. 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
- "Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts opts to return to original Wrigley Field renovation plan - ESPN Chicago". Espn.go.com. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
- Wrigley rooftops sue Cubs, accusing team of price-fixing scheme Chicago Tribune (01/21/2015)
- Cubs owner buys 3 Wrigley rooftops Chicago Tribune (01/16/2015)