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As you may have heard by now, yesterday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs announced a significant change to the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field. In place of that small section of bleachers (the “well” area), there will now be a 75-foot long LED display above the wall, an all-inclusive (food/drink/etc.) seating area for 150 folks, and a new patio area. The changes are all expected to be in place in time for the 2012 season.

As you can see in the conceptual picture (bigger version below), the electronic board is not a jumbotron. Instead, it’s more of an enlarged game data board, which will feature, um, game data. And, naturally, advertisements. It will not affect home runs, and will not feature video replay.

The seating area should look familiar if you’ve ever seen the seats atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park, which seats were added during Theo Epstein’s tenure there. I’m not saying there’s a direct connection there, but the similarity is quite obvious.

Both features – the LED board and the new seating area – I suspect will generate a great deal of additional revenue for the Cubs, and, thus, I approve. I find the proposed board to be unobtrusive, and may even be useful during the game. I love the Old Scoreboard, but between it, and the small electronic screen below it, it’s not easy to follow the statistical side of the game action at Wrigley.

There has been a fair bit of hand-wringing about the change – and a fair bit of grumbling in the crowd when it was announced at CubsCon. But, with the most respect I can muster, the time for being upset about these kinds of changes, designed to maximize the revenue the Cubs can put back into the product on the field, is long past. I’m as sentimental as the next guy, and I openly profess my love for Wrigley Field, but we’re not talking about a disgusting monstrosity that disrupts the overall feel and atmosphere that makes Wrigley special. The change is significant, but, at the same time, modest.

I will be very interested to learn the projected revenue that the board is expected to generate, and the increased take at the gate based on what I expect to be very premium seats. (I get the sense that the idea, by the way, is that they will be used in the way the suites are – i.e., businesses and clients, entertaining, hobnobbers, and the like. I have no beef with this. Teams have to service “high dollar” customers, and this is a part of how the Cubs will do it. Just part of the business.)

Here’s a little more info from Cubs.com, and here’s a larger picture of the plans:

  • Spoda17

    Hello all. I must say, I like the changes.  Even if we “tune” it out regarding advertising… running a business is not as easy as it looks.  As a business owner myself, you need all, and any, revenue you can get.  There is a happy medium, but I give Theo and company a lot of credit to maximize a jewel… Wrigley Field.  I don’t think they will take it too far, but I like the thought process…

  • cubmig

    The change adding seats (left field well area) was very much in keeping with the contour of the existing shape of the park in left field. Same with the change that added seats along the third base side. Those changes did what was desired (add seats to increase revenue) without doing what the Toyota framed eyesore does to the park’s esthetics. One set of changes reflect a consciousness to add and preserve, the other (Toyota) does the opposite. The proposed right field additions follows the Toyota lead.

    I am not anti change. I am against thoughtless change.

    • untitledreality

      Once again, well said.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Suck it up.  The people who are crying about this are probably the same people who are the reason why the Cubs are forced to play so many day games, setting them up at a huge disadvantage to every single other major league team.  Wonder why you haven’t won anything?  That plays a huge part, when everyone else is playing on an even playing field except for you.

    • peabodyoo7

      The reason they play so many day games is due to the fact that Wrigley Field is in a neighborhood and not in a commercial district like most ballparks. Due to the situation the city of Chicago has regulations in place for the number of night games the team can have in a given season. They have requested many times to have that number increased.

    • untitledreality

      How exactly is it a huge disadvantage when you play day games on a regular basis? Wouldn’t it be an advantage when opposing teams come in and play back to back to back day games for the first and only time of the season?

      Stop making excuses for shitty teams.

      • King Jeff

        I agree that the excuses need to stop.  There is a difference between making excuses and coming up with ways to improve the team.  The disadvantage is that the Cubs have to constantly switch between playing day and night games, while other teams only do it occasionally.  I don’t think it should really make a huge difference, but if the players that play the game consistently site this as a problem, I think it has some merit.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Here’s a pretty rough explanation of it: http://andcounting.adamkellogg.com/2010/08/cubs-home-field-disadvantage-is-day.html

        Since the advent of night baseball, the Cubs have had significantly less of a homefield advantage than any other team in baseball, with the exception of the 1960s.

        There are only two constants during that span- Day baseball, and Wrigley Field.  The effect of the horrible facilities at Wrigley is completely debatable, but the effect of so many day games really isn’t.  Anyone who has ever worked a closing shift followed by an opening one can attest to this- constant change in schedule and sleep/work patterns is unhealthy and mentally draining, and leads to mental and physical fatigue, and as a result, less than optimal performance.

        Only one team has to deal with this problem for a large portion of their schedule is the Cubs.

    • McGoate’s Toads

      Where is the “like” button on this thing? Oh, wait…

  • MichiganGoat

    I understand why change is so polarizing, what we all grew up with is changing and there is good and bad with any change. The key here is to be patient and allow the braintrust to make these polarizing changes. Be disappointed, be nostalgic, be concerned, but don’t jump out the window. I fear the boycott voices will grow overnight and we will lose the real focus- the Cubs building toward a WS championship. Keep your eye on the prize everyone.

  • colocubfan

    Too bad Harry died before he could take advantage of the Budweiser Patio ! He could have done all of his broadcasts from out there, too snockered to say Heathcliff Slocumb by the bottom of the sixth!

  • coal

    One of the things that hurts the Cubs revenue stream at Wrigley (vs. modern parks) is the lack of luxury box seats. Those typically sell for big money – early/before the season starts so it’s guaranteed money for the team – doesn’t matter if the product is poor, weather is bad, etc. Plus the team makes money on the food and beverage service. It’s a good deal for teams – which is why the United Center looks sooooo different than Chicago Stadium did (luxury boxes are everywhere at the UC).

    One of the things that has been happening for years is that the corporate type groups (since they can’t get a real luxury box at Wrigley) end up going to the roofdecks. All that money goes outside the stadium. The Cubs tried to do the Bleacher Box thing – reserved bleacher seats – and it didn’t really work. Maybe the batters eye club has worked, maybe it hasn’t, but this is clearly an attempt to get some of the “roofdeck revenue” back inside the park – where, frankly, it belongs.

    You can blame a lot of people in this, but at the top of my list wouldn’t be the Cubs, it would be Tom Tunney or whatever crazy zoning officials have looked the other way and allowed the roofdecks to become an absolute embarrassment. The insanity of the roofdecks is what is ruining the charm of Wrigley – not anything they have done in the park. The roofdecks are not “quaint.” Wrigley still is. Under Armour ads or not.

    So before you blame the Cubs management for this change – think about what you would do if it was your team and your fans (your customers) only needed to go across the street for free cheap beer and hotdogs and still watch the game. So they brought a little “rooftop” action inside the park. And they did it in an area of the park (bleacher box) that wasn’t really selling well, and won’t really be missed.

    I say smart, savvy move.

    • gocubbbies

      While I haven’t seen the numbers that back up your claims, I’ll take them for face value because they make sense to me. This new bleacher section will do well, I think. It looks like a party deck, which is great because that is what the corporate types will like when its 78F and the clients are looking for a good time.

      • BetterNews

        Why don’t the corporate types go somewhere else? Like the south side! We don’t need them. To bad Pena isn’t gonna be around, because I would have loved to see him bounce some balls off the “corporate type” heads out there in right!

        • coal

          Ahhh, but we *do* need the corporate types. At least the Cubs do. Coporate types, season ticket holders, folks with consistent money to spend at Wrigley takes the guesswork out of the revenue equation for Cubs management and allows them to develop a budget which helps them, you guessed it, put talent on the field. Yes, it’s a chicken or egg situation but any fiscally responsible person/company is going to want to be pretty sure about inflows before agreeing to long term guaranteed outflows. Like the renovations or don’t like them, but there is no way it doesn’t increase the odds the Cubs spend more on players (or have the stomach to eat some significant left field salary.)

          • BetterNews

            coal– Come on man! How much money will this new plan generate even if it geared toward the “corporate” types. The new renovations will allow for 150 seats and a patio area! How much money could this possibly generate even with a corporate crowd? Probably 3/4 will get there tickets for free with meal reimbursements! The fact of the matter is the Cubs “main” revenue comes from the average fan. Shutting them out a little more is not the answer, sorry.

            • pfk

              The seats are incidental. It is the electronic board for advertising that is important to this and they are incorporating it nicely. The ad revenue will be significant. So, don’t waste your time wondering how much more revenue they get front the 150 seats.

              • BetterNews

                Really!Then how come Tom and Theo are not riding around with Budweiser logos on their Escalades and Corvettes! I’m starting to get worked up now!

                • pfk

                  You couldn’t figure out how the cost of the seats made much of a dent in the income stream and I’m merely saying that the income from the seats is indeed, as you suggested, marginal but that the income from the advertising on the board below the seats will be significant – to the tune of several million per year.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Yeah. Some quick, totally out of nowhere math: 200 bleacher seats at an average of $70 are replaced by 150 seats at an average of (guessing) $160, minus the costs of the included food an drink, so maybe a net of $100. That’s $15,000 in revenue per game replacing $14,000. Not nothing, but not significant. Again, those are all just guessing that could be wildly off.

                • pfk

                  I’m guessing they’ll get about $50,000 per game in total ad revenue from that sign. It will be flashing ads for 3 hours from numerous advertisers PLUS Budweiser. That is about $4,000,000 per season. Even if its half that amount, it is serious money. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got more than $50k a game.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    I think there was an estimate a couple months ago that a jumbotron could generate $30 million in additional revenue each season through ads. Obviously this is neither as centrally-focused or as large, so it would be a much lower number. How much lower, I’m not sure, but somewhere between $5 million and $15 million sounds about right. Serious money, indeed.

                    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

                      We could have re-signed Koyie Hill with the mini-tron money…le sigh

                • BetterNews

                  Brett–You seem to be wildly off! Your numbers don’t add up.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    The estimates may be off, but the numbers add up. Grab a calculator if you’d like to check…

                    • BetterNews

                      I will.

                • coal

                  I will try to sharpen the pencil on the estimates, and advertising is clearly additional revenue beyond the seats themselves. However, I still think there are still two important points that I don’t think should get lost in the shuffle:

                  1) The Cubs are actively trying to bring some lost advertising and group sales back inside the walls of the stadium. Why should a rooftop owner be able to sell a Budweiser ad but somehow the Cubs are forbidden because it interferes with the *spirit* of Wrigley? That is ridiculous. (Case in point – the Toyota ad – which was placed specifically to block the United/Horseshoe/Budweiser roof.)

                  2) Having something like this section is not ONLY about incremental revenue from increased sales from this section – it’s also about creating a section of the park that is less likely to be completely empty (like the Bleacher Box section was last year and the year before.) In that regard, it’s insurance against lost revenue from seats unsold – in short it’s a draw for people/companies with deeper pockets which helps smooth out the revenue stream.

  • BetterNews

    I think Barney finished 2nd on the 2011 Cubs with his RISP average!

    • Rick Vaughn

      I could have finished 2nd in RISP average on last year’s team.

  • pfk

    Interestingly, when the seats above the Green Monster in Boston were first announced there was considerable pushback about how it changed the classic old ballpark. Now, most will tell you that it is MUCH BETTER with the seats above the Green Monster. They love it! I’m jazzed about the new signage/seating/party area. I wonder what announcers will call home runs hit into that area.

    • BetterNews

      I’m wondering how many drunk people will fall from the patio?

    • untitledreality

      The problem is they are taking a solution that was designed for the context of Fenway and slapping it onto Wrigley. What works in one stadium does not work in another. The Green Monster section did not alter the sight lines, the geometries or the playing field dynamics of the park. It is the equivalent of when the Cubs expanded the bleachers.

  • rocky8263

    BN you sound like a Sux fan.

    • BetterNews

      I’m no Sux fan, believe me!

  • MontelleW

    As much as you bitch and whine, maybe you should be!

    • BetterNews

      You have no facts to make a statement like that.

      • Kansas Cubs Fan

        Maybe MW doesn’t have any facts but anyone who frequents this comment section does.

        • BetterNews

          Nah! I state my opinions, some like it , some don’t. I got off to a bad start with somebody and they took it to another level.(I am not naming the person/persons)

  • BetterNews

    Brett–Do you agree, without a “move” by the Cubs DeJesus is leading off.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He seems the most likely right now, as the roster stands.

  • BetterNews

    I can see different scenarios if young one’s are moved up.

  • hardtop

    ooops, supposed to be a reply to comment above. -deleted-

  • tjtrigo

    Don’t those stairs look a little hazardous especially coming down from a beer garden?

    • JulioZuleta

      I like your thinking. Should make for some entertaining tumbles.

  • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

    and lawsuits

  • McGoate’s Toads

    I grow tired of the mindset “I want the Cubs to win, but don’t you dare change the way Wrigley looks”…

  • DocWimsey

    I have to agree.  Do not get me wrong: I love Wrigley.  However, this just contributes to the stereotype of the Cubs fan as a twenty-five year old rich kid killing time in a giant beer garden until he starts working a sinecure job at Daddy’s Multinational.   I mean, it’s great that people love Wrigley: but that run that someday wins an NL pennant is going to happen on the field, not anywhere else in the ballpark.

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