SBD/Issue 121/Facilities & Venues

Wrigley Chair Talks Ballpark Naming Rights At Annual Meeting

Wrigley Chair Discusses Ballpark Naming
Rights During Annual Shareholder Meeting
Wrigley Chair William Wrigley Jr., in the family's first public comments about Wrigley Field naming rights, “wouldn’t wholly discount” that his company would buy the rights, but it “seems unlikely," according to Mike Hughlett of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Wrigley said at the company's annual shareholders meeting, “Certainly I and my family have a great passion for the Cubs and the tradition of baseball in Chicago and Wrigley Field and the whole package.” But he added that the company “lacked a compelling business reason to pay for naming rights because Wrigley’s marketing focuses on individual gums like Orbitz or Big Red.” Wrigley: “We try to put the spotlight on our brands, and not the Wrigley name, and that would be our bias in evaluating any opportunities.” Wrigley said that the naming rights matter “‘is a hypothetical situation’ and that the firm has had no negotiations with Tribune about it.” However, he said, “Anyone who knows me knows I never say never” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 3/12). More Wrigley: “We’re just going to wait and see how all this plays out, and if there’s an opportunity, we’ll evaluate it just like we would all other opportunities.” He noted that the Cubs “had been owned by the Wrigley family and not the company” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/13). Baseball historian Ed Hartig said that the fact that Wrigley “happened to also be the name of the chewing gum-company [Wrigley] founded was more happy coincidence than a savvy corporate marketing move” (L.A. TIMES, 3/13).

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: In Chicago, Blair Kamin reports the Chicago city ordinance that confers landmark status on Wrigley Field “does much more than offer protected status,” as it also grants landmark protection to the ballpark’s “essential contours.” Keeping the protected features in place would “restrict the ability of the Cubs and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which wants to buy Wrigley from Tribune Co.” However, the ordinance “hardly shuts the door to further changes at the ballpark.” It does not protect the seats and seating configuration nor the "interior concourses, where the Cubs already have put up new advertising signs.” The ballpark has just 66 skyboxes and Kamin wonders, “Would new skyboxes be built in the same spot as the old ones? Or would new plans call for raising Wrigley’s upper deck to accommodate a second tier of skyboxes? That step could raise Wrigley’s roof beyond the height described in the landmark ordinance and force fans in upper-deck seats farther from the field” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/13).

TICKET TAX: With the Cubs considering a $0.25-0.50 tax per ticket to help pay for Wrigley Field renovations, the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES' Greg Couch writes, “So the Cubs want to ask for this tax only from the people who will benefit? I’m pretty sure the Cubs are the ones benefiting here, right? They want you to pay to fix up their stadium.” If the Cubs want to “jack up prices, then just go ahead. People still will come. But why try to trick them into thinking this is something else?” The Cubs “want to make as much money as possible. They are a business. That’s fair. But why try to dupe fans? Why treat them like idiots?” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/13).

STATE SALE: A CHICAGO SUN-TIMES editorial is written under the header, “Sam Zell’s Scheme To Sell Wrigley Field To The State Is Nothing More Than A Foul Ball That Benefits Only His Cash-Strapped Tribune Co. -- At Your Expense.” The editorial states there is “not a single good reason the State of Illinois should buy Wrigley Field. … Beautiful as it is, Wrigley Field is not some architectural damsel in need of being ‘saved.’ Only Sam Zell and his Tribune Co., owners of the ballpark, stand to gain. And in an economic downturn, only the taxpayers stand to lose” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/13). 

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