Harris: Wrigley ‘Restoration’ Is Happening, Unless…
By Adam Harris-
(CBS) Tom Ricketts stood in front of a crowded banquet hall Wednesday with the City Club of Chicago in attendance and gave a play-by-play of plans to “restore” Wrigley Field.
The presentation was impressive.
But what if someone opposes some aspects of the project, like the signage in the outfield?
“I’m not sure how anyone’s going to stop any signs in the outfield,” Ricketts said. “But if it comes to the point if we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do, we are going to have to consider moving.”
Well, there is one group that could use the courts to stop the Cubs from putting up signage in the outfield: the rooftop owners.
“We haven’t seen pictures of the Jumbotron and the sign in right field before,” rooftop owner and spokesperson Beth Murphy said. “We have work to do with the Cubs. We have not had a seat at the table yet and we haven’t had legal representation, but we have work to do.”
Murphy said the rooftop owners feel left out of this process and didn’t seem to take Tom Rickett’s “threat” seriously of moving the team.
“I don’t think it would be a good business decision [for the Cubs to move to Rosemont],” Murphy said.
Ricketts said he could meet with the rooftops in the next couple days to hammer out details of the Wrigley restoration project which, as of now, includes a new video scoreboard in left center, more signage in the outfield and street fairs that would take over Sheffield on weekend games during the summer.
The outfield signage is a key issue for the Cubs and rooftops alike.The Cubs are missing out on $20 million a year in revenue, according to Tom Ricketts, because of signage restrictions, and the rooftops do not want their views blocked of game play.
“It’s [the new scoreboard in left center] set back so we can minimize the impact of the rooftops on each side,” Tom Ricketts said.
Ricketts also looks at the rooftops as a threat to his business, and he wants to focus on his own business with no restrictions from outside.
“The rooftops have grossed over $250 million in the last ten years,” Ricketts said. “Over time [the rooftops] have switched to selling individual tickets and have become direct competitors, selling both season tickets and aggressively discounting tickets on Groupon and other sites.”
Today, the world got a first hand, detailed look at what the Cubs plan to do to the outdated Wrigley Field and the area around it. A hotel is going across the street with a bridge connecting it to the triangle that will be turned into a festival area that can be used on game days and on off days.
Yet, possibly the most important improvement will be to the benefit of the players. A new clubhouse, with new batting facilities, and a new weight training area will be the top priority.
“Our players prepare for games in a clubhouse that is far below Major League Baseball standards,” Ricketts expressed. “The clubhouse is 50 percent smaller than any other in the Major Leagues. There are eight shower heads for 25 guys.”
Ricketts went on to describe how players warm up with a batting tee in the small clubhouse when potentially pinch hitting.
“That is not Major League Baseball,” he said.
Two new, fully functional batting cages will be put in with the renovation to help the players prepare, and that will create more wins, according to Ricketts.
Ricketts also expressed the benefit to the fans, who will be able to enjoy better concessions, with more room to walk under the grandstand. The bathrooms are something Tom Ricketts is embarrassed with right now, so they will be upgraded.
Rosemont mayor Brad Stephens was in attendance at Wednesday’s unveiling. Rosemont is a possible suitor of the Cubs if they do decide to move.
Follow Adam on Twitter at @AHarris670 and listen for him on Score Overnights, with Les Grobstein.