SBD/April 17, 2013/Franchises

Epstein Says Cubs Need More Revenue Streams To Become Consistent Contenders

Epstein says that the Cubs' payroll is not where he wants it to be
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein yesterday said that he will "need more revenue streams if he is to make the Cubs a consistent contender," according to Bruce Levine of ESPN CHICAGO. Epstein's comments were seen as "echoing" what Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts "said the previous day." Epstein: "A lot of this depends on what happens going forward. The TV deal, the renovations and some other factors. ... We need revenues to increase in order for us to execute our baseball plan. We expect them to (increase). We have a lot of people on the business side working hard for that. We are not where we want to be right now in terms of payroll." He added, "We are doing the absolute best job we can. You ask how important are the revenues to increase our payroll. They are really important" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 4/16). In Illinois, Bruce Miles notes although Ricketts "said the renovations would generate revenue to be used in the baseball operations, he did not say how long before" Epstein and Exec VP & GM Jed Hoyer would "reap the financial benefits." A recently published report asserted that there was "tension between the business and baseball sides because Cubs funds were not flowing as freely to the baseball side." Ricketts said the notion was "untrue" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 4/17).

DOES MONEY SOLVE EVERYTHING? ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said of Ricketts stating that if the renovation plan is approved, the team will win the World Series, “Wrigley Field is almost always full and they only have to be good once in a awhile to keep the faith of the fans, but to say that because they get renovations and get more income coming in that they’re automatically going to spend that money on players. Look, I’m from Miami, and there are false promises made down here (by the) baseball team all the time. So I don’t doubt that might happen in Chicago.” The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said it is about “money,” as “seven of the last eight world championship teams were teams that ditched old stadiums and moved into new stadiums and used those revenue streams … to win the world championship. There is a clear connection between the two. Yes, you need good judgment, you need good general managers, but first you need money” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 4/16).

RENOVATION IMPLICATIONS: In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer writes the Cubs' $500M Wrigley Field renovation deal with the city does "underscore the fast-changing reality of baseball’s economic landscape that is making big-market teams out of mid-market teams and giving even some small-market teams optimism." It also "underscores the dangers of a Cubs business plan that has sucked resources from baseball budgets -- however temporary in theory -- while assuming there will come a day when an influx of money from new revenues will allow a switch to somehow be flipped and the team made suddenly competitive again." Epstein was "pushed for a reason why renovations are a prerequisite for contending again." He responded, "Our payroll now is third in the division. That’s fine. But it should be first in the division. So this is one of the ways that we’re going to get there" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/17). Also in Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday "embraced the broad-strokes 'framework' he forged with the Cubs after months of painstaking negotiations." But he "made it clear that it would be up to Ricketts to sell the finer points to local Ald. Tom Tunney and his constituents." Emanuel: "We have a security plan, a traffic plan, a parking plan. We also have an agreement that the jumbotron will be in the park -- not outside the park. We have an agreement on what the night games are. Those are the types of things that are big items (where) there’s a consensus. They’ll work through now the size of the sign, just like Fenway has, that works both for the neighborhood and the ownership." Emanuel acknowledged the Wrigley rooftop owners are "part of the community," but argued there are "a lot of other interests" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/17). Chicago-based WSCR-AM's Hub Arkush said adding a Jumbotron to the outfield “will take away a lot of the charm that makes it Wrigley Field” (“Sports Talk Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 4/16).

ROOF OWNERS ON FIRE: Rooftop club owner Beth Murphy said that the clubs and the team "could work out a compromise." Murphy: "I'm sure there's some sort of mediation that could be done. Nobody has talked to us about compensation and the like of it. I think we have in some sense been painted as villains in the face of the Cubs winning the World Series." South Lakeview Neighbors Association President David Duggan said that he "hopes the rooftop clubs continue because they are a better place to watch the game." Duggan: "Wrigley Field is a 100-year-old dump that needs to be renovated to be moderately acceptable. The rooftops are producing a better product than the Cubs" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/17). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote of Ricketts not going into detail about a proposed 6,000-square-foot video screen when announcing the deal, "If you want to lose a news conference, then tell Cubs fans they can’t see the centerpiece of the renovation, the biggest new revenue stream, and the item that 60 percent of those surveyed supposedly want." News conferences "should answer questions, not raise more of them." Maybe the Cubs are "getting political advice to play it this way." Ricketts' motivation is "great, even if his methods have been clunky." His financial commitment has been "greater still, and bravo for that" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/16). In Chicago, Dardick & Byrne cite sources as saying that the Cubs, the city and businesses in the Lakeview community would "share the cost of putting 30 more cops and security guards on the streets after games under a proposal that is part of the agreed framework to renovate Wrigley." Sources added that such a move would "more than double the number of police officers now outside Wrigley after games." But neighborhood groups said that the plan "might not be sufficient" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/17).
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