Sept 1 (Reuters) - The Chicago Cubs on Friday defeated an appeal by owners of buildings adjacent to Wrigley Field, who sued because the baseball team’s installation of a huge right-field video board blocked their rooftop views into the ballpark.
By a 3-0 vote, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said a 2004 agreement under which the owners, who built hundreds of seats for fans, gave the Cubs 17 percent of their revenue in exchange for views into Wrigley Field, left open the possibility of a video board.
Circuit Judge William Bauer also said the Cubs’ alleged monopolistic behavior, such as setting minimum ticket prices and threatening to block views from buildings that owners refused to sell, were part of the “business of baseball,” subject to Major League Baseball’s 95-year-old antitrust exemption.
Friday’s decision is a victory for the Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs in 2009.
The Rickettses later bought several rooftop businesses and renovated the century-old Wrigley Field, which now also has a left-field video board. Many neighboring properties have also been or are being redeveloped.
James Figliulo, a lawyer for building owners including Right Field Rooftops LLC, in an interview said his clients may ask the entire appeals court to reconsider the decision, which upheld a 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in Chicago.
“The opinion is clearly wrong in finding that the Ricketts’ efforts to monopolize the rooftop business were covered by the business of baseball exemption,” Figliulo said. “It is not the business of baseball, it is the business of rooftops.”
Cubs officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Figliulo said his clients’ buildings have about 400 seats, of which half now have “mostly obstructed” views and half are “partially obstructed” because of the right-field video board.
The owners “have been hugely impacted in a negative way, but they are surviving,” he said. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)