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Cubs Tue Apr 16 2013

Benefits (and Roadblocks) of Wrigley Field Renovation

Cubs_200.pngEditors Note: Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the tragedy at yesterdays Boston Marathon. The Tribune Sports section nailed it. We are one with our friends in Boston.

Sunday night brought news that an agreement had been reached between the Ricketts family and the city on a $500 million renovation deal for Wrigley Field and the surrounding areas owned by the organization. The next step is public vetting before being voted on for approval. The process will more than likely be drawn out over the next few months, but there's little question of it's passing now that a framework is in place that includes mayor Rahm Emanuel and alderman Tom Tunney.

Despite having to bend in a few areas to make things work, the Cubs mostly got what they wanted. That fact isn't a big surprise considering the team is flipping the bill for the entire project, which is quite rare in this era of ballpark renovation.

Here are some of the benefits the team and fans should look forward to (if/when the deal gets full approval):

  • Upgraded Facilities. "We don't want to tell our players this is a first-class organization and then give them second-rate facilities," chairmen Tom Ricketts said yesterday. The clubhouse and training facilities are tiny (for both the Cubs and visitors), and there is no indoor batting cages for use during games. This is the one player-centric facelift Wrigley will see in the renovation and it's badly needed. Many baseball players dream of playing for the Cubs and in front of the ivy laced walls. But once the game is over, they return to one of the most depressing places in all of baseball: the Wrigley clubhouses. Most minor league facilities are better in this regard and it could turn into a more enticing draw for potential free agents.

  • Behind-The-Scenes Changes. Wider and easier to maneuver through concourses will make the experience of getting to and from seats easier, along with more and better food options. Many hope that the troughs will be removed from the mens' bathrooms, but it's likely that urinals will be added as an option. The troughs, despite their lack of privacy, make for getting out of the bathroom quicker because there are rarely lines.

  • More Night Games. An increase from 30 to 40 night games per year is part of the deal, along with leeway if Major League Baseball pushes games back for national television. Some folks in the neighborhood will be upset about more night games interrupting their schedule, but that's part of the deal if you live in Lakeview. For the Cubs, it's getting closer to being on par with other teams. Night games mean more TV viewership, more fans in and around the stadium (helping those businesses around the area too), and opens the opportunity for more fans to attend more games without missing work. It also allows for 3:05pm starts on Fridays. Revenue for the team, and more chances for fans to see Cubs baseball -- win, win.

  • New Videoboard. Without question, the most contentious issue surrounding the agreement. Ricketts was quoted yesterday that the videoboard to be constructed in left field would be 6,000 square feet, which is larger than anyone had previously reported or anticipated. It will finally allow fans inside the stadium an opportunity to see what folks at home and in nearly every other stadium can already: instant replays. It also is a major revenue coup for the team, so there's mutual benefit. Detractors point to Wrigley Field as being vintage and that a monstrosity like that takes away from the nostalgia. Fenway Park added a video board and seats on top of the famous Green Monster with few complaints now, so it's doubtful fans inside the stadium will be upset after it's completion.

The rooftop owners, on the other hand, will have plenty to say. The board will most likely obstruct the views for the buildings in far left field and center field to the left of the current scoreboard. The Cubs plan to try and limit the obstruction is to move the back wall in left field out farther (which won't affect the field dimensions). When Ricketts was asked about the last time he had talked to rooftop owners, the answer was, "I have not spoken to any rooftop owners lately. We'll take that issue as it comes."

In as many words, Ricketts basically said bring on the lawsuits. Without knowing the exact wording of the agreement between the rooftop owners and the Cubs that runs through 2023, it's hard to predict the outcome of any potential litigation. The Cubs may offer to waive some of the 17 percent take they get from rooftop revenue, and it's unknown how upset the rooftop owners as a whole will be since the videoboard affects less than half (and also the lesser profitable) of the rooftops.

The agreement is great news for the Cubs and their fans. It will improve the stadium amenities, enhance the gameday experience, and bring in revenue the team can pour into baseball operations. The hope now is that the organization won't have to wait 'til next year.

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