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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.)

  • die hard

    build a good team and they will come…lipstick on a pig never works

    • Cedlandrum

      Who will come? The fans? They already do. This is about increasing advertising revenue not fan experience.

    • njriv

      Its kind of hard to build a good team at Wrigley when they are incredibly short handed on player resources. Every team has these training areas and multi person batting cages. On the other hand the cubs have 1 they both teams have to share and its all the way in right field so they cant get access to it during a game.

    • Adam H

      We go to games even when they’re bad. Cubs fans aren’t bandwagon fans.

  • Deer

    The ribbon-like advertising is an eye sore at a lot of parks. I hope they do it carefully, but if all this leads to a higher 25 man payroll soon, then I’m all for it.

  • OlderStyle

    honor the tradition, but upgrade the park and do what they need to increase revenue (apart from jacking up ticket and concession prices). It’s a ballpark not a museum.

  • Buzzamus

    As long as they keep it under control and don’t go crazy, like they do at the Cell (with the gigantic billboards covering the view), I probably won’t have too much of a problem with it. Everybody got angry when the news on the Toyota sign came out, but I barely even notice it. Although, that also might be, because I prefer sitting in the left field bleachers.

  • Kyle

    Since it’ll be a few decades before they fill my lifelong dream of seeing the Cubs build a massive, modern stadium in the suburbs and abandon that ancient factory for losses and broken dreams, I can live with slowly changing it one step at a time. Bring on the ads.

    • cubmig

      Never thought I’d agree with scrapping Wrigley for a new Wrigley, but with what’s happening, I think building a new ballpark is the better option for the money-changers’ desire to squeeze out every penny they can out of us and the park. The quilt-patchwork under way will slowly close off the open feel experience of Wrigley and border on being a pure “$$$ box” to fill; money first, fan experience second. The design integrity can’t help but be eroded in the process. At some point, adding one more novel dollar attracting gismo will raise the question among marketeers of: “Can we be louder, more explosive with our visual ads?”

      Then the money-changers will have a whole new problem to deal for increasing revenue.

  • die hard

    really?…..check back in around mid season

  • Polar Bear

    This argument always amazes me. I’m as much of a enthusiast of the team as the next fan and I wouldn’t want to watch a game anywhere else. But, lets be realistic. The Cubs need the money to keep payroll up and have a steady stream of talent playing on the field. You didn’t see Yankee fans crying when they tore down “the house that Ruth built”. Why, because they understand what is needed to make their team better. I mean seriously….they had Ruth, Mantle, Maris, Dimaggio, etc… The Cubs had a black cart, a billy goat, several curses, aa shortstop with two bricks for hands (I refuse to put any blame on Bartman), and the Leon Durham croquet experience at 1st base. I just wonder sometimes, how many of these so called purist would complain in the Cubs won the Works Series using this added revenue?

  • juice

    build a whole new ball park. It worked for the Brewers. Tearing down county stadium and building Miller Park. They have room for more fans, and more revenue generating features. That place would be a gold mine if it were in Chicago

  • Elephanthole

    I love Wrigley Field but its so old and needs renovating. The outfield ivy covered wall and the scoreboard are the most important things to the park. The rest of it could be torn down and redone in a classic but modern kind of way. Not sure if renovating little by little is the way to go.

    • Deer

      Here’s my solution: Offer 25% equity in Cubs for $200M to one of Tom’s rich friends. Use the money to renovate Wrigley, including player facilities. After that, change the policy to profit from the Cubs, back in their wallets, no shame in that. In less than 10 yrs, profit will make up the $200M with interest and the investor can be bought out. Everybody wins.

  • die hard

    and who is going to pay for this taj mahal

  • Carl

    Leave the ivy on the walls and keep the old scoreboard, then do whatever you want to maximize revenue.

  • Daniel Guerra

    If the Cubs put a Moose statue in the middle of the diamond in order to maintain success year in year out, then so be it!

  • Mike

    Times have changed and while honoring tradition means a great deal to people, winning baseball would be a better tradition to start. I love Wrigley and the fact that it’s such a beautiful place to watch a baseball game, but like you pointed out, it’s time to get with the times and adjust.

  • Brian

    In my opinion, you need to do whatever is necessary to Wrigley Field to enable the front office to put out a competitive team. If that means taking down the ivy, the scoreboard, or even the marquee, then by all means do it. Anyone who opposes needs to ask themselves one question, would you rather see a World Series or the precious ivy?

    • rcleven

      Landmark status will not allow any of this to happen.Pick the ivy your arrested. Score board? Landmark status. The City of Chicago Will not allow any of this without the threat of the Cubs leaving Wrigley. Much like when the Bears threatened to move Arlington Hts.

      • Brian

        You are correct about the landmark status, however the point of my post was more to show that it shouldn’t matter what they do to the ballpark as these so called, “old schoolers”, should come to realize that the how the team plays has nothing to do with if the outfield wall is covered in ivy or not. Obviously none of those things mentioned would ever happen but, if they were to happen then there should be no logical opposition to it.

  • Dave

    Hasn’t the fact that Wrigley is considered such a popular tourist destination one of the major reasons that past ownership has been less then devoted to winning.
    I just hope these changes are done with the sole purpose of winning a World Series and not just to line the pockets of the Ricketts family.

  • baseballet

    The addition of a Jumbotron along with tons of LED advertising is not absolutely necessary to build a sustained, winning team. Some Cubs fans see this as an either/or proposition (i.e. if we don’t light up Wrigley with tons of signs then we can’t win the World Series). There are other ways to make the Cubs an upper eschelon financial team without destroying the ambiance of Wrigley for $10M per year. It would be EASIER to tart up Wrigley–it’s easy money–but it’s not the only way. The Cubs should take the high ground and avoid saturating Wrigley with flashing LED adverts.

  • clark addison

    The Cubs’ hands are tied by a long term TV contract that is way below market value, as well as limited corporate boxes and severely limited advertising revenue. If they are going to compete with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers, they need to maximize the revenue stream. Free agents are attracted by the green of dollars, not the green of the ivy.

    • baseballet

      That TV contract does not last forever and once they renegotiate that it will be far more valuable than what most teams will get. Advantage Cubs as compared to most teams once that’s done. In the meantime, the Cubs have found a way to remain a 2nd tier payroll team (below the Yankees and Red Sox) and they can continue to stay on that tier until the new TV deal.
      If you tart up Wrigley then you take away what’s special about the ballpark. You make it no different than going to the Cell or the new Yankee Stadium.
      By the way, at Yankee stadium, the jumbotron not only flashes giant ads, but it’s also LOUD. It’s really obnoxious, with crazy-loud ads and promotions running almost nonstop for the hour leading up to game time. Sitting in the outfield stands before the game with three friends, we all had to shout at each other to be heard for an hour until the game started, while the ceaseless barrage of ads rolled: country music; hip hop; promotions about the Yankees’ community involvement; ads for concessions, ads for merchandise; team promotions and hype. And all of it LOUD. Furthermore, big LED stripes wrap around the entire ballpark on each level, flashing ads before and throughout the game. While this is common to most ballparks, it drastically changes the experience of attending. When I went to Wrigley last year it was SO MUCH nicer of an experience than attending Yankees and Mets games.

  • die hard

    If Cubs asked MLB for old fashioned double headers on every Sunday with discounts given to families for the 2nd game and no beer sales in the stands on Sundays, the atmosphere would improve and a new fan base would emerge that is more representative of the city’s population…

    • MichiganGoat

      Sure because double headers are so good for players, maybe they can charge $12 for snow cones in novelty glasses like they do at Disney on Ice and then use that revenue to rebuild Wrigley… sorry Taj Mahal. These posts make me smile, and wait until the She-view returns.

      • die hard

        they have Mondays off and so my heart does not bleed for their tired buttocks….the fan base has to be expanded or else the game will shrivel and die on the ivy vines…as a kid we used to look forward to doubleheaders as a family outing which we did two or three times a season…as a result all of us kids became life time fans….or if the Ricketts just want to pull a Bain Capital here and dont give a rats patoot then the team wont be here in a few years anyway and so whats the point?

  • Brian

    Is there advertising behind home plate at this time? I think that a Jumbotron could be incorporated into the mix along with keeping the scoreboard. The only issue there might the rooftop partners.
    In the end though, from what I have heard, the two clubhouses and preperation facilties (batting cages, warm up areas) are what really need upgrading, so that would seem to lead into more of the major renovation cat. then a little sprucing up category. So, at some point in time, I would think the owners would need to weigh the value of upkeeping\renovating, versus new build, where you could also control parking revenue better.

  • ogyu

    Gotta think outside the box. Sell naming rights for the ivy to Scotts or TruGreen.

    “Uh oh, it looks like Soriano has again gotten himself tangled up in the TruGreen ivy in left…”

  • Beer Baron

    One of the things you will see in the next couple of years (in my opinion) is the Cubs will buy some of the buildings across the street, and then put a jumbotron on the roof of one of them. The former Budweiser building would be perfect, and I suspect that is why the giant Toyota sign is there – obstuct the view so the owner finally gives in and sells it. Also the Eamus Catuli building is currently for sale, and several others are on the verge of bankruptcy/foreclosure as rooftop revenues plummit. Putting a jumbotron across the street would avoid any landmark conflict, and really not detract from the overall ambiance, while offering all of the revenue benefits and providing a better experience to modern fans who like replays, etc. And even across the street, it really wouldn’t be much further from the fans than most stadiums where the scoreboard is in the upper/2nd deck of the outfield. Plus if they buy the building(s) they can put in a restaurant or museum, etc in the lower level (with the scoreboard on the roof) and generate even more revenue year round. The cost for the property and the scoreboard would likely be recouped in one year of advertising revenue (not counting the cost of greasing enough palms at city hall to allow the construction to happen). Again, just my opinion but seems a relatively easy and low cost way to make a huge difference.

  • Spencer

    A new TV deal would generate far more revenue than a Jumbotron or ribbon ads would at the ball park. Therefore, getting a new TV deal would negate the necessity for adding these features to Wrigley. I understand that we are a few years away from being able to negotiate for new TV rights, but the club is at least a couple years away from being competitive as well, so I don’t think the lost revenue of $2-5M in ads would have a significant impact on the product on the field. I get the 2-5M from the fact that if we are getting only $1M for a board in right field, I wouldn’t expect a Jumbotron to net much more that $5M per. Wait it out for the new TV deal, make bank, and keep Wrigley the way it is. If people want to make changes, expand and improve the clubhouse and batting cages, not the aesthetic portions of the park that make Wrigley what it is.

    • Brian

      That’s all good, except, the owners want it all!! Advertising, TV, what ever generates revenue.

  • Dragoon77

    I’m all for a progressive outlook to stadium renovations, but lets not use U.S. Cellular Field as our blue print. With out any doubt, The Cell is THE WORST OUTDOOR STADIUM IN BASEBALL! I know the Cubs need to “develop new streams of revenue”, and obviously the Chicago media is a little obsessed with Luxury Boxes and Jumbotrons, but we’re really supposed to use The Cell as our model. I can’t possibly even imagine a baseball stadium with less personality or ambiance the U.S. Cellular Field. I’ll even go this far; The Metrodome with a trash bag stretched over top of it and 85% of the seats facing any direction but the infield was a better place to watch a baseball game than The Cell.

  • Michael Foster

    Wrigley is the Cubs.

  • Bacon

    If it means the Cubs win a WS. They could play all their games on the south side for all I care. Push wrigley into lake Michigan and start over make wrigley a museum and build a new stadium for all I care. Win a WS in a couple years is all that matters. Forget about keeping wrigley the same. If you do that your on field product will be the same NO GOOD!!!

  • MontelleW

    Here is my suggestion like it or not. The Cubs need revenue to field a better team? The so called ‘ballpark purists’ aka ‘we’ll pay to see games no matter how many losses’ ain’t having none of that because ‘Wrigley is history’ aka ‘Don’t phuck with our museum!’

    Solution:
    Give the purists their museum by moving a Minor league Cubs affiliate into Wrigley. When no games are being played, use it to hold concerts, movie night, etc whatever. (In other words – more of the non-baseball stuff they do there now anyway). In a new location in Chicago, or preferably in a suburb area bordering the city allowing for more night games – build a new modern ballpark for the ‘Winning Baseball Purists’ (not to be confused with the ‘ballpark purists’), light it up often, more night games, more advertising, more dollars. While we’re at it, I’m sick of rain-delays, so lets steal an idea from Miller Park and get one off those retractable rooftops too!

    Result:
    Bickety-Flippin’ BAM! an Epstein-Hoyer winning team in a park that will never again see a goat unless that goat is Michigan Goat enjoying an Old Style and cheering on Theo’s Cubbies to a World Series Championship!

    (Please submit all compliments to me for this wonderfully superb idea – please submit all complaints, whines, cries, pisssing, moaning, belly-aching, etc to your local congressman – politicians are better trained to hear complaints while ignoring them! LOL)

    • Joe N

      I doff my Cubs cap in your direction Montelle. That plan is about as close to perfect as I can see. This way, Wrigley is an active museum and fans that appreciate winning baseball and more importantly, CUBS winning baseball, will have their chance for a World Series sometime before they die.

      I understand peoples love of Wrigley, but not when it just adds to the burden of a baseball season. It’s hard enough to win a World Series without having to deal with cramped quarters, no close place to take BP before a pinch hit, etc.

  • necusfan

    Wrigley Field is like a model T Ford. It’s beautiful and a heck of a lot of fun to sit in. But if you have to drive that car to work every day on the Kennedy expressway, some upgrades must be made. Otherwise you will literally get run over.

  • Dragoon77

    I was gonna write some really involved post decrying any call for a new stadium as heresy, but then I figured what’s the point? If you wanna trash Wrigley ’cause (somehow magically) it nets us a World Series, well then you might be a Cubs fan, but you’re certainly not a baseball fan. And the suburbs? Really? You’d rather have a stadium in the monotonous cookie cutter, half empty shopping mall littered Chicagoland suburbs? THAT’S SO LAME! That’s like 45 year old man, driving a minivan, listening to Justin Beiber while wearing 1970’s style basketball shorts LAME!

    • MontelleW

      Dude, I can’t believe you just admitted that you keep a Justin Bieber CD in your Mini-van! LOL

  • Dragoon77

    FYI! The Cubs don’t suck because they play at Wrigley Field. The Cubs suck because Jim Hendry was a flawed GM who placed personal relationships ahead of evaluating baseball talent and because venture capitalist Sam Zell intentionally overburdened the team with large contracts so he could inflate it’s sale price. We’ve been to playoffs 3 times in the last decade people, and it’s not like it was Wrigley Field that refused to pull down Mark Prior in game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.

  • jim

    Killing goose and the golden eggs. I remember wrigley nearly empty before 1984. And have an unused bleacher tiket from 81! Price $1.25

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