Ricketts: Screw everybody, I’m starting Wrigley renovations in July

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts now says he’s going to break ground on planned renovations to Wrigley Field in July, no matter what the neighboring rooftop owners say with their “contracts” and “lawsuits.” The first stage will apparently be entirely underground — expanding the Cubs’ team clubhouse — but, assuming the city landmarks commission signs off on the plan next week, you can still probably expect the rooftop owners to seek some kind of court injunction, given that the latest plans would block even more of their views of the field.

The Cubs have also issued new renderings of what the latest renovation plan would look like if all the ad signs were replaced by the word “Cubs”:

Here’s another view from right field, with the bullpens relocated to under the bleachers:

It all doesn’t look too awful, but then, it’s hard to guess how well these images will correspond with the reality — it’s unlikely, for example, that all the ad signs and video boards will stick to the understated white-and-green color scheme shown in the drawings. Part of the charm of Wrigley — okay, most of the charm of Wrigley — is that you’re not bombarded by flashing video and advertisements during the game, so any change to that should be very carefully considered, if not by Ricketts (who should be worrying about whether he’ll drive off fans in exchange for selling their eyeballs to advertisers) then by the landmarks commission, since it is their job, after all.

The Wrigley Field situation has developed into a strange one, since instead of the usual team owner demanding cash, you have a team owner demanding only that he be approved to spend his own money to do things to his stadium that the law — and possibly those rooftop contracts — doesn’t presently allow. It’s a mix of fan improvements (roomier concessions areas), behind-the-scenes items (that expanded clubhouse), some changes to the seating itself (there’s been one report that the “Steve Bartman” seat down the left-field line would be eliminated, though I’m unclear why), and the right to festoon everything in sight with ad signage, including things that aren’t even part of Wrigley Field. By lumping them all together, Ricketts has been trying to make the case that “Hey, all I’m trying to do is improve my stadium with my own money,” but it’s actually more a quid pro quo: If the city okays the ad boards, he’ll take the revenues from that and use them to build himself a more lavish, modern baseball palace, one that may or may not be better for Cubs fans, but which will undoubtedly be better for his bottom line.

And the oddest part of all is that whether all this happens or not will depend not on public debates, but how a judge rules on the minutiae of a contract with the rooftop owners that was signed a decade ago. We live in a weird-ass kind of democracy.


38 comments on “Ricketts: Screw everybody, I’m starting Wrigley renovations in July

  1. I assume that hiding the bullpens has been okayed by MLB, but it don’t seem quite right. Can’t think of any other place where that’s done. Knowing when your opponent has somebody warming up has some strategic value.

  2. The Citi Field bullpens are partly obscured from the dugout, but they’re right next to each other, so the bullpen coach would be able to phone over about the opposition warming somebody up. I can’t tell from these renderings whether the Wrigley bullpens would be side-by-side or separate.

  3. And as Crane Kenney, the “business operations guy” for the Cubs, has made allusions to, I believe the city commission that would be tasked with approving renovation changes to Wrigley is going to rubber stamp the design changes, with perhaps suggestions or requests for slight modifications here or there.
    Basically, the design changes will likely be a done deal, despite the local alderman (Tom Tunney) complaining…the majority of Chicagoans here know full well that Tunney is “carrying water,” for the rooftop owners. Tunney himself is a local business owner in Wrigleyville/Lakeview, and the lion’s share of his campaign war chest has come from the rooftop owners.
    It’s funny that in a VERY blue, democratic city like Chicago, the VAST majority of fans and regular folks, if polled, would tend to side with the large company/rich guy Rickett’s & the Cubs, over the so-called small business owner rooftops.
    I think the rooftop consortium has done a lousy-terrible job of a PR campaign. The vast majority of us see the rooftop owners as guys that invested (in some case millions), into buying up property across from Wrigley Field, gutting said properties, all in an effort to reap millions from hosting rooftop parties with catering, corporate group deals, etc. to view entertainment they weren’t paying for. True, the Cubs under Tribune ownership signed a contract with the rooftops to recoup some of the revenue to rooftops were earning, which was dumb, but the honestly, how did the rooftop owners not see this coming?
    The guys that invested or I’d argue GAMBLED their money in rooftop businesses are not unlike the big Wall Street banks that were effectively gambled, are we’re happy when they were winning…but when the market tanked, they couldn’t accept losing, so they argued for and received bail-outs from the government, effectively eliminating their losses. The rooftop owners gambled on investing millions in creating rooftop entertainment businesses…new owners bought the team and want to create new revenue streams which may lead to impacting the views of the field from the rooftops…so, in effect, the rooftop owners gambled on things not changing, and they lost. Accept it.
    Had Rickett’s gone the route of giving the rooftops an extended middle finger and chose to leave Wrigley Field for the suburbs, what exactly would the rooftops have marketed their businesses as?— “Come have beer and brats, and check out the great views of an empty Wrigley Field?”

  4. Back during the peak of the Cubs/Brewers rivalry a friend and I (both Milwaukeeans) joked that if we ever struck it rich, our evil plan was to buy the Cubs and built tons of advertising around Wrigley, blocking the rooftops and killing the ballpark experience.

  5. I wish, “Part of the charm of Wrigley — okay, most of the charm of Wrigley — is that you’re not bombarded by flashing video and advertisements during the game” was not presented as a fact but as opinion. I have a very different opinion as to the charm and find the lack of signage (specifically a video board) terribly frustrating when I go to Wrigley. My opinion is that people who say they like Wrigley because of the lack of signage, don’t really go to any games but think the idea sounds neat from afar. To each their own.

    I like coming here because I like seeing teams exposed for hosing municipalities and taxpayers, but I never get the Cubs showing up here. What could the Cubs do differently? How much less could they inconvenience tax payers? They attempted to negotiate with rooftop owners but clearly what they were willing to offer is not acceptable so all parties are comfortable letting a court determine the legalities of the Cubs’ plan. That’s one of the reasons you make a contract in the first place, right?

    I actually look at the Cubs as an example of how municipalities SHOULD do stadiums these days. Is that not right?

    I’m not trying to offer or get into a pointless internet argument, I’m really trying to learn what I am missing.

    I’ll hang up and listen.

  6. “Part of the charm of Wrigley *for me when I’ve gone to games there*,” if you prefer.

    And your question of why the Cubs show up here (other than that this site doesn’t only cover stadium deals that are obviously egregious) is why I wrote the last two paragraphs of this post. Ricketts isn’t asking for money, he’s just asking for the ability to modify a landmark (and some of the surrounding streets) so that he can make more money off of it. That’s not a cash subsidy, but it is a concession by the public. You can consider it a reasonable one or not — I tend to think the city council and landmarks commission gave away the store without even making any demands, but as noted above, I find ad signage to be a liability, not a public benefit — but it is a favor that the city is doing for Ricketts.

    We went through some very similar debates about Fenway Park a decade ago, when the Red Sox weren’t asking for city money, but were asking for things like the right to rope off city streets and use them as team-controlled food courts. The difference here is that since Wrigley is a landmark, the city has more control over what Ricketts can do with it; the only person interested in using that influence, though, seems to be Tunney, and he’s only using it on behalf of the rooftop owners, which is pretty unfortunate.

    (He does make some damn fine cinnamon buns, though.)

  7. Fair enough. It’s a matter of opinion I suppose, but I certainly see your point. I consider my opinions ‘pragmatic’ in that I’m just glad the City/State/whoever isn’t giving a handout and is instead making sacrifices that don’t directly affect a municipality’s annual budget or come at the expense of another public necessity.

    Regardless, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  8. This would be much worse if Ricketts were still going ahead with his original plans to demand tax kickbacks, I agree. But it’s important to recognize that if he decided, “Hey, I can make just as much money if I ask for the ability to slap ads on everything,” that’s a tactical change more than a substantive one.

    Here’s something I’d love to see answered, for example: What could the city make by erecting its own ad sign over Clark Street? Not that I think they should do it, but if they’re going to let Ricketts do so, what’s stopping them from doing it themselves and keeping the money for the city treasury?

  9. Changing from handout to ads is tactical for the Cubs, but substantive to municipalities. Very substantive, wouldn’t you say?

    I originally was going to answer your hypothetical as not possible as a matter of principle (which is kind of funny given I just lauded my own pragmatism in an earlier post) but I Googled city advertising and found an NYT story asking similar questions.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/us/cities-consider-selling-ads-as-economic-lifelines.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    I guess I don’t think Chicago or any other municipality couldn’t sell ad space in a public area, it would just have to come with the blessing of the public, or at least representatives with the public as constituents. It happens today with things other than giant signs over baseball stadiums, it’s just that what happens today (stuff like city buses) doesn’t negatively affect citizens so they don’t object. Chicago could probably make a ton of money advertising over Wrigley, but the public would likely never allow such a thing.

  10. That’s an interesting point — Chicago couldn’t get away with the kinds of ads that Ricketts can. So to some degree this is a scheme to use the Cubs to monetize ad rights that the city can’t, and let them use the proceeds to fund their stadium upgrades.

    It sounds a little less evil that way, I guess, though I’d still rather see Chicago asking for a cut of the vig.

  11. This whole thing has a sordid history.

    Yes, Wrigley Field is a landmark. How did it achieve that status? Well, the biggest reason was that former Mayor Daley was looking for a way to hurt the Tribune Company — publishers of the Chicago Tribune and former owners of the Cubs — and severely limiting their ability to renovate Wrigley Field was a way to do so. TribCo had announced a similar, albeit much scaled-back renovation plan in the early 2000s. This happened amidst Daley being at war with the Tribune’s editorial board over a variety of issues, mostly his “executive decion” to bulldoze Meigs Field (a small, downtown airport) in an overnight raid. Landmark status was a great way to hamstring the Tribune. (Lots of people think Daley just wanted to screw the Cubs because he was a Sox fan. I don’t think that really was an issue. Daley soured on baseball after the 1994 strike and had an unsteady relationship with Jerry Reinsdorf ever since.)

    So, Wrigley gets landmark status. The Trib’s renovation plans get limited to a bleacher expansion

    At the same time, the Cubs / Trib were also fighting the rooftop owners, who had been pirating the Cubs product fot a long time. Eventually, the Cubs put up “windscreens” behind the bleachers to block the views onto the field. Now, when this battle happened, for some reason, ALL of Chicago media took the rooftops side. They portrayed the rooftops as if they were still a bunch of dudes grilling on a roof and not the absurd rooftop bar monstrosities they had become. The Cubs eventually cave to public opinion and sign the 20-year deal with the rooftops which calls for revenue sharing.

    Anyway, I know this is a very pro-Cub POV. The truth is, though, that there are no good guys in this story. The neighbors are mostly a bunch of crybabies who moved into a neighborhood with a major league ballpark yet whine and complain about crowds. Yet, those neighbors have reaped a massive windfall if they’ve owned their property in the area as the Wrigleyville scene has been great for the real estate in that area. The local bar owners are opposed to every Cubs expansion because they see the Cubs as attracted patrons for them, sure, but the Cubs are also a competitor. People buying booze in closed-off streets operated by the Cubs surely competes with the bars. Tom Tunney is a hack who at one time was expected to do big things in Illinois politics yet never escaped his aldermanic ward because he couldn’t compete with the big boys. He’s a total stooge of the rooftop owners.

    And the Cubs? Well, they’ve mostly been incompetent about handling these issues from the beginning. Ricketts rolled out a plan to ask for state / city money without even talking to the governor of Illinois. The Ricketts family then proceeded to fund an anti-Obama superpac whose consultants did everything except address the president with a racial slur. They then thought they could cut a deal with the rooftops and wasted a year trying and failing to do so.

    I’m glad they are just going all out and asking for everything they wanted. Hopefully, this issue will just go away. The vast majority of Cubs fans want their team to be competitive and act like a big market team, but the current iteration Wrigley Field is not very conducive to such an operation.

  12. 0% chance the Cubs were NEVER going to move from Wrigley. Zero. Zilch. Nada. All their value is at Wrigley.
    The Cubs should honor their contract with the rooftop owners & deal with it and wait for it to expire. But they’re greedy & impatient and Ricketts is acting like a typical corporation, “I’m the billionaire, I’m gonna do whatever I want & get out of my way, my bottom line, blahblahblah”.
    The Cubs & the rooftop owners signed a contract. Stop blaming the rooftop owners for trying to protect their interests. The Cubs get their share, too.
    You know if you had a pro ballpark in your backyard, you’d charge for parking & seats, too. Don’t deny it.

  13. “My opinion is that people who say they like Wrigley because of the lack of signage, don’t really go to any games but think the idea sounds neat from afar. ‘”

    Nope. I go to games at Wrigley, but will almost certainly stop when the place becomes festooned with ad boards and video screens and whatever else that bombards your senses during games now. I’m not even a old fart. Not even sure how fine the line is for Ricketts. Put up a jumbotron and the place will no longer lose it’s primary appeal for me, specifically that it’s not like every other ballpark where they game is an excuse to sell ads and corporate suites.

  14. Crap… It will lose (or will no longer hold) its (not it’s) primary appeal…

    Me fail English? That’s unpossible.

  15. Michael: You are not alone in that feeling (re: the appeal of Wrigley).

    I guess Ricketts is prepared to gamble that those of us who like the Cubs and Wrigley (more or less) the way it is will be replaced and outspent by the “new” baseball fan who demands that actual baseball be as much like MLB 2014 as possible, at least until it has to be just like MLB 2016 etc. I am genuinely interested to see how they implement the “stopping real time to show different camera views of a homerun” as it is being hit out of the park… but I’m sure Ricketts will come up with something.

  16. Dan:

    The rooftop partners didn’t gamble at all. They signed a contract with the Cubs, as you noted. Therefore they have every right to expect that the ‘partner’ they’ve been paying for a decade or so won’t do the thing they are contractually prevented from doing.

    That said, I’m actually in favour of Ricketts going ahead rather than waiting for the partners to promise they won’t sue. They likely will sue and Ricketts will probably be advised to reach a settlement with them. Hopefully the ugly grandstands on the rooftops will then go away (especially the ones which already have a heavily obstructed view as they don’t really face the field itself) and the Lakeview world can move on.

    I agree that the Cubs should never have entered into an agreement with the rooftop partners. But they did. And those partners can expect their contracts to be honoured or to be bought out of them at a fair price. What could be simpler than that?

  17. I honestly wonder why Ricketts doesn’t just buy out the rooftop owners and run their businesses himself. It’s clearly a profitable enterprise, and the cost would have to be chicken feed compared to what he’s spending on renovations, let alone lawyer’s fees. And then he could put more ad boards on top of the rooftops!

  18. “Nope. I go to games at Wrigley, but will almost certainly stop when the place becomes festooned with ad boards and video screens and whatever else that bombards your senses during games now”

    I see that there are people that like having limited information during the game. I acknowledge the opinion, but I certainly presume those people are a pretty irrelevant minority. I’d be willing to bet that the more primary determining attendance factor is attendance, where the Cubs sold nearly 1/2 million fewer tickets in 2013 than they did in 2008, which had probably a ton more to do with the on field product as opposed to the video board in right. I can’t help but notice I don’t read many complaints in 2014 about the video board in RF. Seems the Cubs are pretty content to put that theory to the test too that the “I love a naked ballpark” crowd is not relevant to their business model.

    Can anyone name more than 2 ad boards in Fenway that were recently added (i.e. not the Citgo sign) without looking at a picture? Do a lot of people walk into Fenway nowadays and comment on their “senses being bombarded?”

    The rooftops absolutely have a right to protect their argument in their reading of the contract. The Cubs absolutely have a right to protect their argument in the reading of the contract. It’ll be decided by either a courtroom or a settlement, but I don’t see anyone in the wrong for doing what they think is best for them. It so happens I think the Cubs are in the right, but my opinion and $.25 will buy you $.25 worth of stuff.

  19. “I see that there are people that like having limited information during the game.”

    I thought everyone just checked their phones these days when they wanted to know the batter’s batting average? Anyway, there’s a difference between scoreboards and ad boards in my experience, though I’ll happily admit that YMMV.

    And I do know Red Sox fans who complain that their senses are bombarded by the new ad signage, even if they love the rest of the Fenway renovations. I guess the solution in both cases is to sit in the bleachers, where at least your back is to the electronics.

  20. @MIchael, seriously, the games are terrible at Wrigley. This is absolutely necessary. People aren’t going to stop going to Cubs games because it’s more bearable to watch. They’re already selling out, despite the horrible fan experience. That’s absolutely miraculous. I don’t think they care that you won’t go to see games.

  21. So if it’s a horrible fan experience, and the team is terrible, why does it sell out?

    I think it’s pretty clear by now that many people are attracted to Wrigley by the no-frills nature of the place, even if some would like to see some frills added. (Though my guess is that ad signage wouldn’t be most people’s first choice for frills.) I don’t think we, or Ricketts, have the slightest idea whether these changes will result in Wrigley drawing more fans, fewer fans, or the same amount of fans some of whom will talk about how great it is to be in a “modernized” ballpark, and the others of whom will grumble about how it was better in the old days.

    This would be a great occasion for a survey. Anyone have a pollster sitting around that they don’t know what to do with?

  22. The most important thing is this, when Ricketts bought the team he was aware of the contract in place with the rooftop owners. Is it a bad contract? Perhaps so, but the Cubs agreed to it, and they should live up to it, until it ends. Perhaps more important is the precedent it would make when it comes to breaking leases and other Real Estate agreements. I suspect that not only will construction NOT start in July, but (after a long Legal Battle), the Courts will rule for the rooftop owners. Think of it this way: The Cubs signed a bad TV Contract with Comcast, so while they will get more money with the end of the WGN portion of their TV Contract starting in 2015, but they must wait for 2019 for the Comcast part to end. Same thing as with the rooftop owners, because of a poor business decision they should have to wait until 2021. More examples of why they have not won since their infield was “Tinkers to Evers to Chance.”

  23. A couple things:

    1. Some might say the charm of Wrigley was lost when rooftops stopped being gatherings with beer coolers, lawn chairs and grills, and started being giant collection of random bleacher seating.

    2. The contract everyone keeps referring to apparently has language that allows “any expansion approved by the government. ” So it’s possible that the Cubs are honoring the contract itself, if not the spirit of it.

  24. Yeah, the question in court is going to be whether building new ad signage counts as “expansion.” Any lawyers in the audience who can speak to that?

  25. *Any lawyers in the audience who can speak to that?*

    One, that term should have been expressly defined in the contract; if not, the rooftop owners’ counsel royally goofed. Two, if “expansion” is not defined, the court will use the dictionary definition, or at least both sides’ interpretation of that definition, to interpret the contract.

    I could make reasonable arguments both ways as to what constitutes “expansion.” The Cubs could argue that “expansion” is simply any reduction in the negative space connected to or within the stadium; the rooftop owners could argue that “expansion” strictly means an addition to the stadium’s physical structure that increases capacity. Those are just off the top of my head, and I’m sure others could come up with better arguments either way. Isn’t this fun?

  26. “seriously, the games are terrible at Wrigley.”

    Well, that’s mostly because the Cubs have been fielding a AAA team for 2-plus seasons.

    Like Neil said, if it’s so terrible, why do they keep selling tickets by the pallett load? And outside of a MASSIVE GODZILLATRON I’m not sure what the renovations—moving bullpens, increased signage, taking up half of two city streets to siphon money away from the local bars—are doing to make the fan experience “better”. I understand I might be in the minority, but if I want massive video screens and ads and fireworks and mediocre baseball, I can get that about 15 stops south on the Red Line. And if you haven’t noticed the White Sox, who offer all of that, don’t draw too well (currently 28th out of 30 teams in attendance).

    For me, this isn’t about Ricketts vs. Rooftops (I’m only on the side of ‘you knew about the contract, stop acting like a petulant child and either cut a deal or wait it out’). Or even public v. private (although it would be nice if it weren’t fait accmpli that most of Ricketts’ asks weren’t rubber stamped). I also don’t want to over-romanticizes this like Wrigely is some Costas-ian Nirvana but a huge part of the appeal of the place is that it’s unlike almost every other ballpark. I’m sure they’ll do fine without me buying crappy domestic $8 beers (although the hot tip is that if you’re willing to walk to one of two or three concourse stands, good beers are only $1 more).

    Not to get too long winded but I’m sure the Cubs are well aware of what the Hawks are doing. It’s not completely analogous, but since the death of Bill Wirtz, the Hawks have gone from being an afterthought to maybe just behind the Bears in terms of popularity in Chicago. A big part of that is because the Hawks are winning (getting a TV deal and some other stuff has played a part as well). So as much as being the ‘loveable losers’ still puts fans in the seats, the Cubs can feel pretty secure that they don’t have to spend shit right now (Cubs are 23rd and spending less than the Padres Mariners) and still rake in money. They are actually pretty stacked with position players in the minors rights now. Give those kids a couple of more years and, if the club can keep/find/acquire pitching, within three years they might be legit contenders.

    So you’ve got a winning Cubs team, and (if Ricketts gets his way) you’ve got ad signage all over the place, you can charge even more for tickets and ridiculous amounts for ads and you are absolutely printing money. And I am absolutely certain they don’t give a shit that none of it is mine because, well, this.

  27. Here’s the relevant section of the contract: “6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section.”

    http://www.csnchicago.com/cubs/exclusive-look-inside-cubs-rooftop-contract

    No definition of “expansion” that I can see, unless it’s in another part that wasn’t posted. Also, I now notice that this has to be resolved by an arbitration panel if it goes to court — not sure how that affects things.

  28. “I guess Ricketts is prepared to gamble that those of us who like the Cubs and Wrigley (more or less) the way it is will be replaced and outspent by the “new” baseball fan who demands that actual baseball be as much like MLB 2014 as possible”
    Bingo. Money talks. All. The. Way. He doesn’t care that some fans that will be annoyed by a billboard or 2 & will stop going to Wrigley. He only sees “$X now, $XX later”. Millions of people. New generations of fans. Winning creates demand. He only sees Wrigley as a dump & looks at the old crummy manual scoreboard & thinks, “How much money is that making me?”.
    How many will covert to White Sox fans because of it? Very little,I think. More will probably just stop following baseball. Wrigley certainly recovered from adding lights, as well as adding those ugly LCD & rotating scoreboards.

  29. Neil: As Matt suggests, it is “not at all uncommon” for definition of terms included in contractual language to be part of that agreement. And generally, the party seeking to create public support for their interpretation of the term rather than accepting the contractually agreed definition is reluctant to release/leak that part of the contract.

    We simply don’t know what the rest of the agreement might contain. It might, for example, define an “expansion” as a minimum addition of a certain number of ticketed seats available to the public. If it does, that number could be as low as “one”.

    Was it Mr. Noll who said some time ago that the critical issue will be how the court defines the term expansion?

  30. Just because the games are terrible doesn’t mean tickets won’t sell. The team is loved by the locals and it’s a tourist attraction. However, the experience compared to other stadiums is just terrible. It’s primitive. The fans drink A LOT. I totally understand. I also understand why free agents wouldn’t even blink at the Cubs. It’s just a hole. Compare Comerica to that place, and it’s no contest. You think players look at their options and say, wow, I’d really love to play in Wrigley for my next contract? No way.

    I could never go back to another Cubs game. I understand why the locals love the team, but the stadium has got to modernize. I shouldn’t have to look on my phone to find the score of the game, or the stats!

  31. “However, the experience compared to other stadiums is just terrible.”

    At this point, there’s little need to go back and forth. We simply disagree on this. I think most other stadia experiences are terrible.

    But…

    “I also understand why free agents wouldn’t even blink at the Cubs.”

    When was the last time the Cubs were the top bidder for a FA and that player went elsewhere? Throw stupid money and Soriano and guess where he ends up? You think Mike Hampton really chose the Rockies because of the schools? No, the Rockies offered him the most money. FA’s aren’t coming to Chicago because the Cubs are making zero effort to sign expensive FAs. They are building up through the farm system and gladly paying the tax on outspending the international pool limits. And because of the appeal of Wrigley as a destination (whether you think it’s a dump or not), Ricketts and Theo and whoever else doesn’t really have to worry about taking a hit in the revenue department (at least in terms of the gate) because the team sucks.

  32. If I ever get to Chicago, I would go to Wrigley Field because my perception is the experience is different. I’ve touristed NY and not bothered to go to the new Yankee Stadium or Mets Stadium because my perception is that they are as loud and generic as everywhere else. Maybe that is not a business model, the Cubs must have fans,, but mostly what makes them famous is not winning and that unique stadium.

  33. It’s been a while since I did this study (it’s been a while since MLB had enough older ballparks remaining to have enough of a sample for a study), but last I checked older stadiums had far less volatility of attendance than new ones. New stadiums see attendance plummet when the team goes bad; old stadiums tend to draw the same regardless of the quality of the team, I assume because people will go for the stadium even if the game is lousy.

  34. Why should Ricketts not have the same “…more lavish, modern baseball palace…” as other MLB owners have/want? Most of those owners have strong-armed their way to directly suck up tax dollars or using the local “governments” to be their bond salesmen/financiers.
    Ricketts isn’t doing that, the across the street businesses that benefit from the product payed for by the franchise are no different than a store or food joint dependent on a factory or office building. Their business is subject to the whims of the host entity that they profit from and if the host leaves or changes their way of doing business that’s part of the risk of a business that is dependent on another.
    The amount that the franchise brings in annually from across the street won’t even cover the $500k that is rookie minimum – mallpark sized video boards would. That’s the cost of labor “peace” and the acceleration of the revenue generating intrusions.
    As long as the sheep keep buying on either side of the street both sides will scrape for every last penny assuming that the flock will pay-up to satisfy the jones.
    Bahhh-bahh-bahh…

  35. I have a feeling that regardless of how this stadium drama plays out, the Cubs will shoot themselves in the foot at the end of the WGN deal. Think about it: they are the only remaining team that shows up on pretty much everyone’s cable TV package without having to subscribe to MLB.TV/Extra Innings. Unless I’m mistaken, anyone who has access to WGN can view those Cubs games that they carry. Many of those tourist fans were likely cultivated watching broadcasts on WGN back in the day. This was always the Cubs’ biggest advantage; only the Braves had a similar arrangement with TBS until it went national with its sports programming.

    I don’t know the dynamics of how much these games are worth to Comcast Sports Net versus WGN, but to me it would be shortsighted for the Cubs to chase the money rather than the national exposure that keeps tourists flocking to fill the park even when they are awful – which has pretty much been this entire decade to date.

  36. @ Ryan – This came out on Friday: www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140530/NEWS01/140539978/wgn-america-to-drop-chicago-sports
    MLB.tv makes WGN America (71 Cubs regular season Cubs games in 2014) moot for out-of-town Cubs fans anyway.
    Before I saw that, I was going to say Ricketts probably cares very little about Cubs fans in Iowa or Atlanta; and while they do visit, it’s rare & the emphasis is to focus on the local ones that can sit on the seats on a regular basis. Of course they’re going to chase the money.

  37. How does mlb.tv make WGN irrelevant for out-of-town Cubs fans? I’d be willing to bet the ratio of people who pay for mlb.tv to those with WGN on their cable package has got to be well under 1:10, even if you’re only counting baseball fans.

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