Flashy Changes to Wrigley Field Could Be Just Beginning

Two weekends ago, when the Chicago Cubs revealed that they would be making a relatively modest, but relatively important, change to a section of the right field bleachers, the response was mixed.

As you’d expect when any changes are made to a landmark like Wrigley Field, many folks were upset. The plan – which will add a patio section, rooftop-style seating, and a 75 foot LED board – will necessarily change a little of the “feel” at the ballpark, and I can understand some resistance.

Still, others welcomed the change with open arms, knowing that it will provide added revenue to the organization, and may not have much of a deleterious impact, if at all, on the experience at Wrigley Field. Again, I can understand that perspective, too (and, to be candid, it’s the perspective I’ve taken, as well).

Well, if Ed Sherman’s source is right, we can expect many, may more of these debates in the coming years:

When I asked a veteran sports marketing executive what’s next at Wrigley, the person replied, “They’re going to light up that place.”

Indeed, by the end of this decade, if not sooner, depending on when they finish their massive renovation Wrigley Field (another call to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, please), the place where they once played only day games is going to have lights flashing everywhere with revenue-producing advertising.

The Cubs have no choice. The team has been missing out on millions of dollars in ad revenue by not having a Jumbotron video board and limited other LED-type signage opportunities in the ballpark. Just look at all the advertising signs the White Sox have at U.S. Cellular Field.

Yes, the Jumbotron is coming. There will be more ribbon-like advertising along the façade of the upperdeck. Perhaps the Cubs will add another LED board along a similar area of the leftfield corner. And there likely will be more unexpected additions if the Cubs marketing executives continue to think out of the box.

The Cubs will always be walking that precarious line between maximizing revenue and honoring tradition. But with a full-scale renovation project on the way, some serious changes are coming, one way or another.

Old schoolers are simply going to have to adjust. The Cubs have been behind the times in so many ways for so very long that we can’t expect the new regime to advance the ball in one area while ignoring others. When it comes to finding and utilizing new revenue streams – which directly impacts the product on the field – the Cubs have been woefully lax. Tradition and sentiment have their place, but, to the extent that they conflict with sincere efforts to put together the best possible team and organization, they must defer.

No one wants Wrigley Field to become a Las Vegas-style monstrosity, and I think the Ricketts family would agree. But revenue matters, and Cubs need to get theirs.

One other interesting point in the article. Sherman says a “marketing insider” told him the expected revenue on the Cubs’ new LED board in right field will be “more than $1 million per year.” Really? That’s it? I know it says “more than,” so the figure could be much higher than $1 million, but I’m assuming that $1 million was tossed out there as a near estimate. I would have thought the revenue would have been much higher, particularly given the relatively limited advertising opportunities now available at Wrigley Field. (A quick number crunch says there will be about 2.43 million eyes on board ads throughout the season (81 games x 30,000 folks who can see the board each game (that’s conservative) = 2.43 million impressions), so $1 million in revenue is a pretty meager return for that kind of exposure.)

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

45 responses to “Flashy Changes to Wrigley Field Could Be Just Beginning”

  1. Hashtag

    They want to host the All-Star game and MLB said last year the need to make improvements to the stadium if they want to get it. Chicago money, not Chicago Cubs money. This isn’t just about $1million/year lol.

    “The five-day extravaganza surrounding the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game that will be played at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Tuesday will bring about $85 million in spending to the area.”

  2. Dougy D

    Wow, are you saying that we can be like the White Sox? Whoooppeeeeee!