The Chicago Cubs have played at Wrigley Field since 1916. Ivy covered brick wall in the outfield, the manual scoreboard, the bleachers, and of course the red marquee out front that welcomes you to the Friendly Confines. All of these things help make Wrigley such an iconic ballpark, and are a key part of the history of the baseball team on the North Side of Chicago. I personally cannot even imagine a world where the Cubs are not playing in Wrigley, but things are developing, and it is starting to seem like a possibility. Could the Cubs actually move out of the Friendly Confines?
First, let me explain the back story a bit. The Ricketts family purchased the Chicago Cubs from the Chicago Tribune company back in 2009. With their purchase, the Ricketts family also received Wrigley Field. Right away Tom Ricketts (who is widely known as the Cubs owner, he seems to make most of the hires and such for the family) let it be known that he could like to renovate Wrigley Field.
If you have ever been to Wrigley, you know that while it is a very iconic park with great history, it can certainly use some work. As former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen once said “You are going to take batting practice and the rats are bigger than pigs out there. You want to take a look? I think the rats are lifting weights.” I do not know about that, but I can agree that the park surely needs some modernization.
Among other issues, the player’s locker room and clubhouse is apparently extremely small compared to the rest of Major League Baseball. I would have to imagine that being a tough sell for potential free agents. Long story short, for the better of the Chicago Cubs organization, Wrigley Field needs renovation.
The Ricketts family has been working, since they bought the team, to make this renovation a reality. This past January at Cubs Convention, the organization released their plans to renovate Wrigley Field. I came across this video, and it explains everything that they plan to do over a five year span, costing the Ricketts family $300 million. It is definitely worth checking out.https://web.archive.org/web/20150428073824if_/http://www.youtube.com/embed/KQLz4bU4moM?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent
Alright, so the Ricketts family is ready to spend $300 million to renovate Wrigley Field. Good stuff, now let’s get started. Well, it has turned out not to be that easy. They have been trying to get these renovations approved by the city for a few years now, and just cannot get the clearance.
Basically, the Cubs want to be free to run their business how they like. They want to have more night games for the primetime audience, have street fairs in the Wrigleyville area, and more sponsorship signage in the park. Personally, I do not think these things seem too unfair. As long as the advertising is done in a tasteful matter, there should be no problem there. As for the night games and street fairs, the way I look at it is, when you buy a property near a professional sports stadium, you know what you are getting into. Expect some crazy traffic and loud noises a lot of the time.
Well, the residents in the Wrigleyville area do not want more night games, or traffic to be blocked off by street fairs. The main concern with the advertisement in the ballpark, appears to be with the rooftop owners across the street. As you may know, the buildings across the street from Wrigley Field allow people to buy tickets to watch the games from the top of their rooftops. While I have never watched a game up there before, I have been told that it is less about watching games and more about the party atmosphere. Basically, the rooftop owners are concerned that the views of the field from their buildings will be blocked by advertisements and other things that would be part of the renovation.
Because of all of these problems with the Wrigleyville area, a deal is looking like it may not happen. The Cubs and the city of Chicago are still working hard to hammer out a deal, but they seem to be far away at this moment, and apparently the Cubs have set a deadline for opening day of this year, which is next Monday, before they start looking elsewhere.
Last week, the mayor of Rosemont (which is a suburb of Chicago) Brad Stephens told Comcast SportsNet’s David Kaplan that he was prepared to offer the Cubs 25 acres of land in his area for free. Stephens made it seem like he would lift all restrictions on night games, street fairs, and signage, basically allowing the Cubs to run their business freely. This area would be very close to O’Hare International Airport. David Kaplan spoke with Mayor Stephens again yesterday and there are certainly some interesting quotes from that piece.
“I understand Tom Ricketts wanting to do all he can to make Wrigley Field work long term. He should listen to Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago and hear what they are proposing. However, if the Cubs are unable to reach a deal by Monday I would like to meet with Tom Ricketts as quickly as Tuesday morning,” the Rosemont mayor told Kaplan. “They cannot be held hostage by the community. The people in the Wrigleyville area must understand that the Cubs are the economic engine that drives the neighborhood. Wrigleyville doesn’t make the Cubs, rather the Cubs make Wrigleyville. You don’t have to be very intelligent to see that.”
I agree with everything that Stephens says there. The best thing for the Cubs is staying in Wrigley Field long-term with little restrictions, being able to do pretty much what they please. However, if that does not work out, take a meeting or two and look at your options. The Cubs do obviously make Wrigleyville what it is, let them move, and see what happens to the property values.
“They can build a ‘Cubs Island’ out here by putting a new stadium on the land that we will give them.” Said Stephens, “They can develop all of the bars and restaurants they want in and around the property and bring in tremendous amounts of revenue for the Cubs. If they want they can put their own rooftops up behind the outfield walls and make all of the revenue from those as well. And I can guarantee you that those rooftops won’t try to stop them from doing whatever they want to do to their ballpark at anytime.”
This is a very interesting thing to think about. A stadium in Rosemont would be somewhat secluded, but if the Cubs wanted to pour some money into the area they could make a killing off of their new location, with some simple ideas like the ones the Rosemont mayor proposed.
All in all, it is hard to say what is best for the Cubs. There are plenty of financial and political things that are involved with this that is way over my head. As a life-long Cubs fan, I just want what is best for the team. If that means moving from Wrigley Field, even though I would be sad to see them go, so be it. I trust that Tom Ricketts and the people working for and with him know what is best for the Chicago Cubs. This is a story that I will certainly have a close eye on.
Huge shout out to David Kaplan of Comcast SportsNet for the quotes from Brad Stephens.