By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) As a Cubs fan, I’m well conditioned to wait ’til next year.
But not when it comes to my season tickets.
At this point, though, I’m half-prepping myself to receive an email from the Cubs regretfully informing me that due to a setback in its rehab program, the Wrigley Field bleachers have been sidelined until 2016.
And that they’ll be renamed in honor of Mark Prior.
That’s because when the Cubs invited members of the media to tour Wrigley on Monday while the 101-year-old ballpark undergoes the first phase of its massive rebuilding project, what they witnessed was far from promising for fans – especially those who have season tickets in the bleachers, as I do.
Back during the Cubs Convention in January, the team had already announced that the reconstruction of the bleachers would be delayed until at least May 11. But Monday, we learned that the progress is dragging so far behind schedule that the team was seeking an OK from the city for its construction crews to work 24 hours a day.
On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel rejected that idea.
Even if that request had been green lit, the Cubs said the right-field bleachers still won’t be ready until at least early June. It’s unclear when all of the bathrooms will be completed. And while the Cubs say that the left-field/center-field bleachers will still be open by the May 11 date, let’s be honest, they don’t really know – especially with Mother Nature calling the shots.
In a particularly startling admission Monday, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said of the cold weather-driven delays that, “We were hopeful for a warm winter. We did not get that.”
And how long has this guy lived in Chicago?
Such a naive statement would be akin to Theo Epstein telling Cubs fans that, “We were hopeful that Edwin Jackson would win a Cy Young Award. We did not get that.”
Don’t tell Kenney, but it might get humid in Chicago this August, too.
This past fall, after nearly a decade on the Cubs’ season-ticket waiting list, my name finally came up. After watching (or not watching) the Cubs lose 464 games over the past five seasons, my initial reaction was to pass on the opportunity. But then the team unexpectedly signed Joe Maddon as its new skipper, and instead I decided – along with my brother and a friend – that it was worthwhile to jump on board. As a result, we bought a nights-and-weekends package for the bleachers.
Now, however, the Cubs are hoping to work day and night just to finish those bleachers … by some point.
When I learned in January that the bleachers wouldn’t be open for the first month of the season, it came as no big surprise or even big frustration. April games at Wrigley are generally chilly affairs, and I was fine with taking the refund for games through May 11. However, if the reconstruction does drag on much past that and eat up games during Chicago warmer months, well, it certainly will be a frustration.
And not at all what I signed up for.
As it stands, the delay with the bleachers already has me once again questioning the wisdom and decision-making made by the business side of the Cubs operation. It’s the polar opposite of the team’s baseball operations department, where Epstein appears to have arrows pointed in the right direction with the signing of Maddon and new ace Jon Lester this offseason coupled with the cadre of young talent ready to take the field for spring training in Mesa.
I feel good about all of that. But Kenney’s business operations? Well, I don’t.
From the bungled rollout of construction plans to the city to the unending war with the rooftop owners (with whom Kenney originally brokered a 20-year revenue-sharing deal) to the head-scratching decision to opt out of a WGN-TV contract only to eventually opt back in, we’ve seemingly seen one pratfall after another from Kenney, the business guru who continues to look like anything but.
When the Cubs made the decision to turn the bleachers into a pile of rubble this offseason, I expected that they had a handle on their construction plans – and Chicago weather patterns – that relied on more than “hope.” But it’s now looking like that wasn’t the case, and it seems that it would have been much more realistic for the franchise to have spent this offseason rebuilding the left-field bleachers to unveil the new Jumbotron, and then to rebuilt the right-field bleachers during next offseason.
The Cubs also could have left Wrigley Field for this entire season and looked into playing home games at U.S. Cellular Field or up in Milwaukee at Miller Park in order to get all of the construction done in one fell swoop without the interference of games. The Cubs spending the 2015 season at a different ballpark wasn’t at all my preference, but right now I’m not sure when I’ll be seeing them play at Wrigley Field anyway.
And that, my friends, truly is a bleacher bummer.