The Cubs sounded as serious Saturday as they've ever sounded in trying to get their desired renovations to Wrigley Field.
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 who jammed a hotel ballroom at the annual fan convention in Chicago.
After chairman Tom Ricketts warmed up the crowd in the morning, president of business operations Crane Kenney rolled out an audiovisual program in the afternoon, showing what the nearly 100-year-old landmark would look like after a major facelift.
The plan would take five off-seasons to complete and would cost $300 million. On top of that, the Cubs say they would not have to play games at another park while the renovation is going on.
The kicker is money, 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.
“The fact is, if you look at all the limitations that we have, whether that's signage in the outfield, which we're not allowed to do, or whether that's what kind of stuff we do in the park or around the park, I think we'd just like to have a little more flexibility to have some options on that kind of stuff,” Ricketts said. “Just give us some relief on some of these restrictions and then we'll take care of Wrigley Field.”
The Cubs would like to begin work this coming fall, and Kenney said the Cubs and the city have had “good talks” over the past 10 months. If the Cubs get what they want, here's what fans can expect:
ŸThe upper and lower seating areas would be completely rebuilt.
ŸThe Cubs players would get a bigger clubhouse and have a batting-cage tunnel nearby. The dugouts also would be expanded.
ŸAnother LED information board, similar to the new one in right field, would be added in left field to give fans more statistics and game-day information. Some fans have long opposed a Jumbotron-type info board.
The idea has been discussed by the Cubs, but they say if they were to install one, it would not include such features as a “Kiss Cam” or other gimmicks.
“Probably five or six conventions ago, I raised it as a topic, and clearly, the sentiment was opposed to it,” Kenney said. “All of our focus groups have swung the other way on, 'If it's done right.' That's the key comment we hear from people: 'If you do it right and you give us a chance to celebrate a great play again, learn more about the player, understand the game at a higher level,' they're supportive.”
ŸThere would be a new fan deck in left field, similar to what the Cubs added last year in right field.
ŸA restaurant would take over the team's administrative offices on the third-base side of the building.
ŸThe facade of the ballpark would be restored, and landmarked items such as the hand-operated scoreboard, the marquee and the ivy on the outfield walls would not be disturbed.
The Cubs and the city have had a somewhat contentious relationship over the years. Kenney and Ricketts said the Cubs have been in talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and that they remain hopeful a deal can get done.
During the ownership session Saturday morning, Ricketts told fans the Cubs are a business and “not a museum.” He said that because the Cubs own Wrigley Field, they ought to be able to do with it as they please.
“We'd like to have some freedom in the way we run the ballpark, top to bottom, no different from the other 29 clubs,” Kenney said later in the day. “I don't think anyone's asking for something extraordinary here.
“It's really simple. If we're going to be a private enterprise and expected to pay for all of our renovations, we should be treated like one. If we're a public enterprise that's going to be restricted like a public asset, when it comes time for renovations, we'd like to be supported. And we're happy to do either one.”
Members of several areas of the Cubs operation were on hand for the session. Kenney cited the jobs that would be created by the renovation as well as the ongoing economic benefit he said Wrigley Field brings to the city in tourism dollars.
General manager Jed Hoyer touted the upgraded facilities for the players. It's generally agreed in baseball that the Cubs have the worst and most cramped facilities in the major leagues for their players.
“The better you treat the players and the more amenities they have, they tend to reciprocate in kind,” Hoyer said.
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.