[For those unfamiliar with Obsessive Watches at Bleacher Nation, they are pretty much exactly what they sound like. When a topic reaches such a frequency of rumor mongering that we can’t help but seek out every little bit of info – think Brian Roberts, managerial searches, and Jorge Soler, for example – it becomes an Obsessive Watch. Like you, I can’t help myself.]

Funding plans for a renovation of Wrigley Field continue to be discussed both within the Chicago Cubs’ organization and in the Mayor’s Office. At last check, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on board with a plan that would net some of the funding from public dollars, and some from the Ricketts Family (though Illinois Governor Pat Quinn isn’t happy about it), but any public-funding plan in today’s political and economic climate is going to be met with heavy scrutiny and almost immediate skepticism.

So, if direct public dollars aren’t going to be the easiest way to get a funding deal done, what about a public way for the Cubs to generate some of the money on their own? Say, for example, by relaxing the limitations imposed by Wrigley Field’s landmark status? From the Sun-Times:

Determined to renovate 98-year-old Wrigley without overburdening taxpayers, sources said Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing a plan to relax the ballpark’s landmark status and allow the Cubs to wring as much as $150 million in advertising and sponsorship revenues out of the stadium and surrounding streets.

The mayor privately calls it his “Fenway” plan — and why not? Century-old Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, remains the model of how to turn an iconic old ballpark landlocked by a city neighborhood into a festive money-maker.

Now that Emanuel is Chicago’s mayor and former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein is president of baseball operations for the Cubs, City Hall believes it’s time to replicate the Fenway model at Wrigley.

Advertising in and around Wrigley Field has always been a touchy subject for the same reason that so many things are touchy subjects when you attach them to Wrigley Field: tradition. Very few people like advertising, but, as the proprietor of a business that could not survive without it, I can tell you that advertising is a necessary evil. And it’s a necessarily evil that the Cubs have been doing largely without for a long, long time (once again, placing them at a relative competitive disadvantage with respect to their peer organizations/markets). Would I be happy to see Wrigley done up like a Las Vegas showgirl? No. But do I want the Cubs to be able to renovate Wrigley Field and start spending like the large market team they are? Very much yes.

The Sun-Times report indicates that sources say increased ad revenue would not be the only source of funding for a Wrigley Field renovation, with substantial money still coming from the Ricketts Family, and another chunk coming from the long-discussed amusement tax growth plan (in short: the Cubs would get some of the money collected by the city and county on the sale of Cubs tickets). A combination deal like that seems like the most politically-digestible plan, and also seems like the most realistic path to securing the kind of dollars necessary to meaningfully renovate Wrigley Field.

The plan might also be the most attractive to the Cubs. After the renovation is paid for, the Cubs will suddenly find themselves with vast new revenue streams that weren’t previously possible thanks to Wrigley’s landmark status.

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    Attn BeyondFukudome.

    Just looked in yesterdays enhanced box score. Don’t know if you are on the site right now. You don’t owe me an apology. I understood your comment. That post was directed at TSB.

  • baseballet

    Wrigley’s landmark status detracts value in one sense because ownership can’t tart up the hell out of the stadium with signs and flashing digital ads on every square inch of available space. However the landmark status also adds tremendous value in another sense because it makes Wrigley a special place to watch baseball, resulting in lucrative ticket sales every year, even when the Cubs are terrible.
    If ownership makes the Wrigley experience basically the same as at any other ball park, then tourists visiting Chicago would have no reason to spend an entire day out of their three day vacation at a Cubs game. Although advertising would add revenue in the short term, in the long term if the Wrigley experience is degraded, it might merely reallocate funds from ticket sales to advertising sales.

  • Kevin

    With $150M comIng in every year, I can’t imagine any public funds are necessary.

    • hansman1982

      This is most likely a 5- or 10-year period. Governments LOVE to use that nice big number without providing the time period.

      • Pat

        Exactly. And it is also based on deals signed in better economic times, and before the results of these types of deals started coming through. For instance, the days of teams getting twenty million annually for naming rights are gone, because it’s been proven that the ROI isn’t there to justify them.

  • hansman1982


    About damn time, these are the little things that are negatively impacting the Cubs ability to spend more like the market they are in. Doesn’t matter if suddenly the entire population of China were to move into an apartment building across the street from Wrigley, when you are behind the 8-ball of teams like Boston, NY, Philly, etc… in the media revenue departments, you just can’t get to the $160-180M payrolls the other big boys have.

    If you want to see baseball the way it used to be played – there are numerous travelling teams that do this across the country – some even play without gloves. If you want the Cubs to be competative, you have to have advertising. You want tradition? Look at old Yankee Stadium…wait, you can’t because the 1 stadium in America that OOOOOOZED a winning tradition was torn down.

    Maybe the best way to handle this would be to have a 5-member panel that approves in-stadium advertising. Allow one member from the team, one from the city and 3 impartial members.

    • Dave H

      I like the 5 person panel. The only downside is the political lobbying that goes on around chitown is horrible. But then again you only have to bribe 3! I love to see Wrigley and the Cubs step into the new age and bring more money to the Northside. Anything that makes it possible, they should try to do!

  • Joe N

    Whatever it takes to help the Cubs get one step closer to winning a World Series, I’m all for it. No offense, but if you want to see baseball played in a nice park-type atmosphere without advertising, I’d suggest catching a little league game. Otherwise, don’t complain when the Cubs don’t win for however long. Baseball is entertainment and big business. When you don’t allow for it to be big business, you don’t allow for your team to have every advantage possible.

  • Cubmig

    Here we go again……..make Wrigley an Advertisers Mecca. The money it will bring in will solve the Cubs’ performance inadequacies. …….wow…..

    I have a better idea. Why not sell renaming rights to the highest bidder? Hell, why continue to suffer under the weight of the traditional name of “Wrigley” Field? I mean there’s money to be made living in a strange house. The hell with sentimentalism. It has no ca$h value.

    Even better yet, why not build a new ball park? I mean it could be outfitted with the latest high-tech devices at hand to beam out whatever the hell controllers want fans to react to. Think of the notoriety such a new place would have. Think of the line of advertisers waiting to sign up for a piece of the action. It would be “Glitz” of the most attractive kind to trap the mind into robotic responses. Wow. Now that would be a new experience to sell to people. Hey, maybe ticket prices for night games could be upped to include laser held wands for 7th inning song-singing shows. And double the fan pleasure by mirroring the moments on HD jumbotrons! Or what about a special seat section equipped with computer systems that allow one to type-in personal advertisements of a special event being celebrated at a game? Damn! What a way to make advertising turn into Cubs gold!! Oh…..the ballgame? Shit. I forgot.

    Anyway—- why piddle around with respecting this shitty old Wrigley Field ball park and all its limitations as a treasure trough? Advertising is the way to go. Cut the sentimentalizing and headaches that preserving a hell-hole with a tradition is creating. All it’s ever given us is “a sense of place” and an identity. Who in the hell wants to live with those things…..especially an identity that is nothing but an anchor around our collective neck. And worst yet….who in the hell wants to live to tell their grandkids they once had “a sense of place”.

    Let the money-changers in.


    • Nick

      You’re not to far off, cubmig. I’ve said for a long time that it’s time to explore a new ballpark. Get outta the city and their high amusement tax, pain in the butt neighbors, ridiculous parking situation etc… No more kow-towing to the Wrigleyville whiners (and the mayor and Ald Tunney) who have seen job opportunities and property values skyrocket, but stymie the Cubs anytime they want to hold a night concert, or put lights in, or hold a street fest like they attempted last year on Sheffield. The neighbors around the United Center don’t get to tell them how many night games they get have and such…

      And the United Center is the perfect example. Remember the tear jerking when the Chicago Stadium was closed? Crying and wailing and now – who misses it? No one. Because a new, clean, well built facililty with all modern amenities replaced it.

      And I’m a Cubs season ticket holder now in my 11th year, so save me the “No ‘real’ Cubs fan would say tear it down, blah, blah, blah”. I’ve seen them play from Pittsburgh to San Diego and in more than a dozen places in between, in some gorgeous, terrific new ballparks. I’m a lifelong fan of the team, not a building & field.

      • Cubmig

        Nick: I hope you caught my Wrigley Advertising post as snark. I am against the visual pollution it would (and unfortunately is slowly) leading to. To me it’s not the ball park that’s the problem. It’s the team —- and as we have seen, from management, the GM and up the ladder. Just thought I’d clarify in case I came through otherwise.

    • Joe N

      If you love Wrigley, fine. If you love the Cubs fine. If you want to love Wrigley, the Cubs and winning, you might have to give a little.

      My God, Wrigley would have been the FIRST field with lights, but Wrigley donated the lights ( the metal from the lights anyway ) for the war effort during World War II. People wouldn’t have complained in the 80’s when we got lights then because, oh my God, it’s just NOT Cubs baseball. Well, the lights are here and people got used to it, and now things need to change with Wrigley once again.

      I like Wrigley, but I like the Cubs better and if it takes some changes to Wrigley for that to happen, then so be it. Any true Cubs fan would care more about the team winning than about where they play. Yes, there is history here. That won’t change.

      Advertising has always been a big part of baseball for a reason. It helped to fund teams. I’m sure some (or most ) owners took advantage of that and just put money in their own pockets.

      That didn’t happen too much at Wrigley and look what happened. The place is in such a state of disrepair that they have had to put diapers on it so it won’t take a concrete crap on someone’s head. They didn’t have too much advertising here and Wrigley is FALLING TO PIECES. If you love it, let it earn the type of money that it requires to repair it. It’ll still be the same ballpark. It won’t change your memories.

      Here’s a thought also. The Cubs haven’t won SINCE THEY MOVED INTO WRIGLEY and people are upset about it changing ( NOT being torn down, just changing ). As was said in a previous post, the Yankees actually won and won a lot in the old Yankee Stadium and they have a new one, not just rebuilt.

      If you don’t like the idea, then don’t complain about the Cubs not winning a World Series. It won’t make them win it immediately, but it will help in future years when they have a batting cage someplace closer to the dugout and they can relax in a clubhouse bigger than a closet. It will help to provide that superstar free agent or help to retain a core group of players when they might not have been able to have been afforded in years past.

      • JustSwain

        The Bo-Sox managed to win in Fenway twice, which by all accounts is worse than Wrigley. It might be a factor, but its not prohibitive to winning. I love the Cubs, but if they switched ballparks, I probably wouldn’t love them as much. There are people like me out there, and its possible that a move would actually lower attendance, and decrease revenues. And by the way If you consider the 1974-76 renovations to Yankee stadium as basically a rebuild (like many people do) then Wrigley is 54 years older than that beast.

        • Joe N


          Yes it’s a factor, but the Red Sox won in a REMODELED Fenway. It wasn’t the same old ballpark that was around for years. AND, they didn’t start to win until they actually modified some of it and put in some advertising.

          • JustSwain

            Haven’t the Cubs done that with the extra seating/backstop extension/patio/right field scoreboard? The problems presented by Wrigley Field are mostly stated as poor facilities, and Fenway has been described by visiting players as “A dump”.

            • Joe N

              To some extent, the Cubs have. The problem is, they need more money to fix up Wrigley as the politicians are being tight with cash, probably because they can’t find a way to get their claws into it.

              Wrigley needs structural repairs as well as amenities both for the fans and the players.

              I’m sure if the Cubs could get away with not doing this, they wouldn’t as it creates such rancor among the fans.

              Problem is, the politicians have been all about keeping state income taxes low ( not that they’re low, but as in NOT raising them ) and city property taxes ( same thing ). Now, everything in the city and state is starting to fall apart tax base wise and the politicians are having to raise taxes in all sorts of new and imaginative ways. Since they’ve done that, they don’t want to give money to a private cause, such as the Cubs.

              • JustSwain

                So basically you just think that the Cubs will be better off with some public funds to renovate the park? O.k.. I can agree with that. I don’t think not doing it precludes them from winning though, its just a factor, and I happen to think a very small one.

  • Pat

    I thought the landmark status only applied to the marquee, scoreboard, and outfield wall/ivy. I can’t see why any of those would prevent them being to advertise.

    Granted, the biggest source of ad income in many stadiums is the Jumbotron, but even that could be done without adjusting landmark status.

  • die hard

    For those of you too young to know, when the toll way system was first proposed, the carrot was that the system would be paid for in 25 years and then tolls would disappear or at a minimum go down every year thereafter. PT Barnum’s ghost hovers over this proposal also. Chicagoans we have met the enemy and it is us.

    • ty

      I wish I had a quarter for every quarter I have dumped in the baskets of the tri-state tollway.

  • Frank

    Would it be possible to derive most of the money from “the surrounding streets” as the article says, and keep the in-park changes to a minimum?