SBD/January 21, 2013/Facilities

Cubs' $300M Wrigley Field Renovations Depend Upon City Easing Restrictions

More bathroom and concession areas are included in the proposed Wrigley expansion
Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts on Saturday said that the team will "fund an ambitious $300 million renovation plan at Wrigley Field if the city eases some of its restrictions" around the ballpark, according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Among the proposed improvements announced at the team's annual Cubs Convention are "larger concourses, additional restaurants, more bathroom and concession areas, expanded suites and amenities for the players, including a larger home clubhouse, batting cages and additional training facilities." A "new roof would replace the wooden roof, new seats would be installed and the façade would return to its 1930s-era luster." The project would be done "during offseasons over a five-year period." The Cubs in order to pay for the renovations are "asking for the ability to enhance their revenue streams in the same fashion as other teams, without having to ask permission from the city." Ricketts said, "We’d like to be treated like a private institution. We have a lot of restrictions. We compete against our rooftop partners across the street. They compete on price and we compete against them on a regular basis. We’re told what we can do to the park. ... We’re not a museum. We’re a business" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20).

HISTORICAL HEADACHES? ESPN CHICAGO's Levine & Rogers noted Ricketts in his comments was "referring to restrictions on any major constructions of a landmark status building." Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said, "I think we would like to be treated like the other 29 clubs. If they are going to be allowed [to] build their business and put signs [where] they need them and hold games when they need them, they (the Ricketts family) are prepared to write the whole check themselves" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). Ricketts said that the Cubs have "given up efforts to persuade the city to divert tax revenues to help fund Wrigley Field renovations -- for now, at least -- and have shifted their efforts toward getting restrictions at the ballpark eased to allow more sponsorship revenue." Ricketts: "We're not looking at amusement taxes" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/20). Ricketts said of seeking the city of Chicago's approval for the proposed project, "We have an opportunity here that is tremendous. Give us some relief on some restrictions and we will take care of the rest" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). In Illinois, Bruce Miles wrote, "It won't be easy and it won't be cheap, but the team rolled out a convincing and power-packed power-point presentation that won widespread approval from the fans." Money is "the kicker," but the Cubs made an "assertive offer to the city of Chicago: Relax some of the restrictions that prevent revenue-generating items in and around the park -- such as signage -- and the Ricketts family will foot the bill" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/20). The DAILY HERALD's Miles: "Here's hoping the Cubs and the city of Chicago can strike a deal. It's either that or continue to watch Wrigley Field crumble before our eyes" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/21).

HOME IMPROVEMENT: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports the Cubs' renovation plans include "three new premium clubs and restaurants, two outfield fan decks and an enclosed suite level." The most significant changes would be "a new indoor club for season-ticket holders behind home plate, similar to diamond clubs at newer ballparks; another lounge in the upper deck between third base and home plate; and a marquee restaurant in the team’s old administrative offices" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/21 issue). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Sullivan noted the Cubs "have for years been looking to turn Sheffield Avenue into a street-fest on selected weekends." The team "shelved plans for the much-hyped triangle building, instead opting for an open area west of the park that can be used for things like movies, an ice rink and a farmer’s market" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/20). Kenney said that the five-year project, which the Cubs hope to begin this fall, will "start with the clubhouse and players' workout and practice areas" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/20). ESPN CHICAGO's Levine & Rogers noted also among the proposed changes is adding an LED board in left field "similar to the one in right field." The Cubs also would be "restoring the brick exterior of the park back to its form in 1935." Kenney said that the team "will not have to play their home games at another venue while the project is being completed" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). In N.Y., Ben Strauss writes, "It is an ambitious construction project that will include renovations to the interior, exterior, baseball facilities and infrastructure of one of the crown jewels of American stadiums" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/21).

FISTFUL OF DOLLARS: ESPN CHICAGO's Jesse Rogers wrote the Cubs are "in line for more revenue" when their current TV rights deals with WGN-TV and Comcast SportsNet expire. Ricketts said, "Few more years on them. At some point in the future we'll be able to renew that contract. We know the rights fees have gone up a lot. Somewhere down the line the Cubs will [be] able to renew our TV contracts, and that will be at a much higher level." Meanwhile, Rogers noted the Cubs have "entered into a partnership with the Starwood Hotel chain, which includes Sheraton hotels." The deal is the "reason the convention was moved to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers this year." The team will "mainly stay at Starwood hotels on the road, and a new 175-room Sheraton will be built across the street from Wrigley Field" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 1/19). 

WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR? In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes fans by the end of the three-day Cubs Convention over the weekend "had a more pressing restoration in mind." A fan asked Ricketts, "Do you have a five-year plan? A 10-year plan?" Another fan said to team officials, "Some of us don't have that much time left." Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told the crowd, "By '15, we should not just be talking about October, but hopefully you fans should be making your plans for October" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/21).
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