Here we go: it’s the first substantive test of the comprehensive Wrigley Field renovation proposal. The Chicago Cubs could be getting their night game increase as part of a process that begins as soon as Wednesday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduces an ordinance before City Council.
The Sun-Times reports that the Mayor will introduce an ordinance increasing the Cubs’ allotment of night games from 30 to 40, subject to a handful of particulars. For one thing, concerts, small non-Cubs events, and Friday 3:05pm starts will not count against the Cubs’ limit. Neither will playoff games, All-Star Games, or rescheduled games. Under this plan, the Cubs would agree to schedule only 35 games, leaving some flexibility to flip day games to night games when MLB requests it. If MLB requests that the Cubs flip more than five such games (up to 11), the proposal calls for City Council to authorize the increase without those games counting against the Cubs’ cap of 40 night games.
In other words, we’re looking at a cap of 46 night games, with flexibility for the Cubs between 35 and 46 games. Right now, my understanding is that the Cubs have a cap of 30 games, which is a functional cap of 33 games, as they are allowed flexibility up to 33. They presently schedule something like 27 night games, so the real increase here is from a range of 27 to 33, up to a range of 35 to 46. It’s significant, but not overwhelmingly so, however the neighborhood might try to spin it.
Speaking of which, the Sun-Times piece has more from a Lakeview community organization and a Southport Corridor community organization, each of which wants a far more restrictive limit. You can read the Sun-Times article for the particulars, but the gist is: they want Friday 3:05pm starts and concerts to count against a limit in the 37 to 40 range, with an absolute maximum of 40. In other words, it’s virtually no increase at all from what the Cubs currently have. Consider this: the Cubs currently could have up to 33 night games and three concerts. If they scheduled a few “day” games as Friday 3:05pm, they would be at their cap. That’s an increase in night games of zero. The neighborhood is going to have to get a little more flexible here.
The Major League average for night games is about 54 games. Night games are more valuable in concessions and attendance (as much as $1 million per game, according to various sources), and far more valuable in television contracts. Players on all other teams play a consistent night game schedule, and are not asked to reset their body clocks again and again and again throughout the season. Playing day baseball is cool, and the Cubs will still be doing that more than any other team. But it’s time to take this enormous competitive disadvantage off the board and place the Cubs on a fairer footing with respect to the rest of the league.
Hopefully the night game ordinance the Mayor introduces on Wednesday proposes to do that, and hopefully it passes without too much reduction in value to the Cubs.