Back in 2004, the Chicago Cubs added some additional, premium seating behind home plate by moving the brick wall there forward about 10 feet. It was a modestly controversial move, because it reduced the distance between home plate and the wall to just 50 feet, one of the shorter distances in baseball (and shy of the 60 feet recommended by MLB). Ultimately, though, the three additional rows of seating – and added revenue – soothed most concerns, and it became just another part of Wrigley Field (which is, by the way, what has already happened with the patio seating and LED board in right field).
The Cubs are reportedly trying to do it again with the wall behind home plate, moving it forward about three feet in order to add 56 premium box seats. With three fewer feet behind home plate, Wrigley Field would be home to the shortest distance between home plate and the backstop in all of baseball (which, considering Wrigley’s age and seating limitations, is probably about right). Moving the wall requires landmark commission approval, though.
The details of the process, from Crain’s:
The proposed renovation, which is on the meeting agenda for the permit review committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on Thursday, would disassemble part of the current wall and salvage all the brick and stone cap to be incorporated into a new wall behind home plate, according to the agenda.
Since the wall falls under the guidelines of the stadium’s 2004 landmark designation, the project must get a thumbs-up from the committee before the Cubs can get to work.
The Cubs, naturally, are declining comment until after today’s committee meeting.
Those added 56 seats – assuming they don’t become the empty eyesores like those at, for example, Yankee Stadium – could cost $200 or more, depending on the opponent. With 81 home games, that suggests an added revenue stream upwards of $900,000. In reality, that’s probably a very conservative guess.
As for the impact on the game, the shorter distance would have an impact not only on ricocheting wild pitches and passed balls (probably of little impact on the game), but also on foul balls behind home plate. In theory, the more you shrink foul territory, the more hitter-friendly a park becomes (fewer balls that could have been caught in foul territory are actually caught, given hitters more lives). Here, with some back-of-the-napkin math, you’re talking about a 6% decrease in foul territory, only in the area directly behind home plate. How many pop-ups does a catcher get behind home plate in a given season? 25? Fewer? If so, you’re talking about a decrease in foul outs of about one or two per season, tops. That’s almost negligible enough to be considered “no difference.”
In other words, as long as precautions are taken to assist with player safety, this looks like an opportunity for the Cubs to add significant revenue at almost no expense. Since Tom Ricketts has said that every dollar in the door will be put back into the organization, more revenue is a good thing.
It looks like they’re measuring things this morning, in fact.