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Any time a professional sports team changes hands, a little bit of trepidation is understandable. Beyond the ownership, what else might change?

With the Chicago Cubs – a team reborn of tradition, rich history, and supported by a fan base that is nearly as well known for its fondness of that tradition and history as it is for its desire to freaking win already – the fears are even more understandable. And in this era of Citi Fields and Petco Parks, fear that Cubs’ fans’ most sacred shrine could change for the worse runs rampant.

But you can (probably) fear not:

Speculation about the possible sale of naming rights to Wrigley Field has spread since the Ricketts family bought the Chicago Cubs from the Tribune Company in the fall, but the new owners of the Cubs have not discussed the sale of naming rights to Wrigley Field, according to Wally Hayward, the team’s new chief marketing officer.

Beyond that, Mr. Hayward said in an interview last week, the Ricketts family would not sell the name because they understand the essence of the old-time park.

“We are not going to take the ivy off the walls and replace it with advertising signage,” said Mr. Hayward, who will oversee the Cubs’ business development, including commercial opportunities at Wrigley. “We intend to preserve the Friendly Confines.” NYTimes.com.

Very good to hear (though I would point out the irony that the name being desperately preserved, although a family name, is also the name of what might as well be a corporate sponsor). I don’t think many fans would begrudge the Ricketts family their right to make some money, but it’s good to know they understand the balance.

That said, economic realities could put a damper on things eventually.

The stated intentions of the Ricketts family, though, will be tested against an unrelenting need for major repairs at Wrigley that could run to $400 million or more, according to documents reviewed by the Chicago News Cooperative and interviews with people who saw cost estimates during the Cubs’ two-and-a-half-year auction process. Experts in sports marketing believe the sale of naming rights will prove necessary as a means of financing Wrigley renovations.

Shrug. The team makes a lot of money. I highly doubt that naming rights will ever become truly “necessary.” That said, if naming ever does happen, you can be assured that “Wrigley Field” will remain.

Who’s ready for the KFC Ballpark at Wrigley Field?

  • Joe Novak

    It seems like there are an awful lot of alleged Cubs fans that care more about having the Cubs play in Wrigley ( and by God, it had BETTER be called that ) than they care about the Cubs winning.

    Yeah, I know I’m going to be a pariah here, but can those of you that I referred to above just remove the Cubs ear plugs from your ears and listen for a minute?

    If the Ricketts’ would sell naming rights and would be able to make the field now known as Wrigley a more fan friendly and team friendly place ( Cubs only, of course ), wouldn’t that be worth selling naming rights? I mean, and lets all think about this, is the name of the place going to change your experience at the game? You’re still going to go to the game, watch the Cubs win (hopefully) and have a good time (whatever that is for each individual).

    It won’t make the Cubs suck or ruin your day. Maybe, it would even make Wrigley a nicer place to watch a game. It won’t change what any of us call it anyway.

    People still call that park on the South Side what it was called before. Sure, some people call it by it’s new name, but overall, those other fans still call it or think of it by it’s previous name ( granted those fans have an intelligence deficit to begin with ).

    Everyone still thinks of the Sears Tower as that. When I read in an article the name “Willis Tower”, I had no idea what they were talking about at first.

    Also, consider this: The Cubs have not won a World Series since they’ve been at Wrigley, so why is everyone so adamant about keeping the name. Maybe a name change would send some subliminal message to the players and coaches/management that things are changing and they don’t have to suck anymore.

    It’s not like I’m advocating a new park, It’s just a stinking name change. It’s NOT the end of all things Cubs and holy as we know it.

    I now return you to your swearing at me ( already in progress ).

    • Ace

      It’s actually a very interesting discussion, Joe: would you rather the Cubs won the World Series at a new-fangled, differently-named ballpark; or would you rather they stayed at Wrigley Field?

      To me (and you), if those are the only options, the answer is obvious: WORLD SERIES. But to many others, it’s a much closer question.

      Fortunately, it’s not an either-or situation.

      • Joe Novak

        Thanks for the kind words, I really thought I would have brought out some very angry people ( maybe they’re busy today or something ( ha ).

        Yes, I’m all for winning a World Series no matter where it was played. I’d rather have it at Wrigley, but if it took more revenue from a new park, you wouldn’t see me smiling any less because of that.

  • savant

    I’m with Joe. Although my first attempt at selling the naming rights would be to get Wrigley to go ahead and start paying up for all of the free exposure they have received since the Cubs were sold to Tribco. If Wrigley has no interest in paying in the future, then by all means find another company name to put on the field.

  • mrejr8234

    I dont care if they burn Wrigley to the ground or rename it whatever. I only care about a World Series title

  • Lok

    I’m torn. I’ve been to Wrigley twice in my life time to see my beloved Cubbies play divisional rivals (Brewers and Cards). I’ve also seen the Cubs play at a (relatively) new/modern field twice (Citizen’s Bank Park, Philly) where I used to live. I enjoyed both fields equally and if I had a choice, I’d much rather enjoy a game at Wrigley. Sure, the fan support is there, but just the overall ambiance. Knowing that the *our* greats have run the bases, hit the homers, pitched the shutouts, etc, makes it feel like mine.

    I personally have no issue what-so-ever with Ricket’s selling the naming rights. I would beg them to keep the name Wrigley (or rename it to something non-corporate like Friendly Confines presented By Budweiser, for example) and be attributed to the corporation. Hopefully, selling the rights to a company that respects the Cubs and their history, would recognize the bond the fans have and would want to help keep that tie.

    Of course, in a perfect world, we’d still have no lights on our field either (and yes, I still prefer my day games. It’s how I grew up watching Baseball, it’s how Baseball is meant to be played….at Wrigley =D)

    All that being said, I’d love for a World Series before I die. I’ve supported the team since I was a young child as my dad taught me the correct Chicago team to support (and my bastard Uncle being a Sox fan didn’t help!). I just don’t think I’d want to sell my “soul” for a ring. We’ve waited 101 years as fans, what’s a couple more? Wrigley is our turf. Whether Zambrano likes it or not, it’s home. Let’s win a ring at home. We can discuss moving later.

    =)

  • Bob

    Why not approach the Wrigley Company and make them the prime sponsor and pay naming rights, therefore keeping it Wrigley Field!

    • Ace

      In an ideal world, Bob. But unfortunately, something tells me chewing gum isn’t quite the monolith that it would take to pay for that kind of prime ad space.

      Unless that chewing gum was Big League Chew. Remember that stuff? That was the shit.

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