As we await details on the planned renovation of Wrigley Field – your 20 second overview: it’s probably going to happen in the next few years, it’s probably going to be partly funded by the city/state/county and partly by the Cubs (via increased advertising and street fairs), it’s probably going to cost a total of $500 million, and it’s probably going to include the Triangle Building – it’s worth considering yet another reason to hope that things get underway soon.
The renovation isn’t just about making Wrigley Field a better, more sustainable experience for fans, but also about improving the neolithic facilities with which Cubs players and staff have to work. Why is that such a big deal? Well, not only does it put the Cubs at a competitive disadvantage on the field year to year, but it also puts them at a disadvantage on the free agent market.
Why? Because free agents know what it’s like to play at Wrigley Field. To wit, Cole Hamels’ thoughts.
“[A renovation at Wrigley Field] will impact players,’’ Hamels told Gordon Wittenmyer earlier in the week, “because we’ve all played there and realize how brutal the facilities are. I don’t think fans know how much time we spend in the clubhouse and how much time we spend at the field. And when you don’t have adequate equipment or facilities — you want to know that they’re trying to make it comfortable for you because you’re at the field more than you’re at home.
“You’ve got to make it nice, because if you do, players are going to want to be there. They’re going to want to come to the organization. You’re going to have players that would think on the lines of, ‘Hey, do I go to a Yankees organization that has all the money and great facilities, or do I go to the Cubs, who are finally building the good stuff.’ And I think that’s where you can finally get the top players.”
Hamels saved the most stark evaluation for last.
“As a fan [Wrigley Field] is one of the coolest stadiums I’ve ever been to. As a player, it’s one of the worst. So if they can change that over, then they’re going to get a lot of great players to come there.’’
Let that sink in: Wrigley Field is one of the worst places to play baseball. Other teams’ players – and probably Cubs players, too – think the facilities at Wrigley are “brutal.” The allure of Chicago and playing for the Cubs is great, but if it’s always neutered by the prospect of having to play, train, recover, and stay in shape at Wrigley Field? I can see why some big timers might shy away unless the Cubs blow other offers out of the water.
So, if you’re even remotely on the fence about the urgent necessity of a renovation at Wrigley Field, let this serve as your tipping point.
On the plus side, once the renovation are complete – hell, once they’re underway – the Cubs will suddenly have a bonus selling point on coming to the Cubs. Play on an historic team, in an historic ballpark. Play in a wonderful city. Play for passionate, knowledgeable fans. Be a part of the first team to win it all for the Cubs in over 100 years. *AND* take advantage of some of the most state-of-the-art, top-notch facilities in all of baseball.
Doesn’t that sound nice?