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wrigley-field-old-schoolFor 85 years, the old Yankee Stadium stood.  With it, came 45 postseason appearances, 37 AL Pennants, and 26 World Series victories for the Yankees. But beyond the hardware, there were something else. There were memories. There was an aura. There was history.

In sports, memories are crucial. I remember my first baseball game as kid and who took me. I remember that one game where my favorite 1st baseman, Derrek Lee, hit a grand slam to win. I remember walking through the halls on every opening day. A stadium symbolizes and memorializes this in our brains. This is what the old Yankee Stadium did for people. It was not only the site for many of the Yankees fan’s favorite moments, it was a symbol. Something to physically touch and smell that helped make those memories tangible.

At the beginning of the 2009 baseball season, however, New York City and their beloved Yankees walked into a new beginning and a new Yankee Stadium.* Fans had mixed emotions. The place where they had created all of these wonderful times was gone. The physical representation of all the years of winning, heartache, and good times stood no more. I was even sad to see it go.

But at the end of that same 2009 season, no one was crying for their old ball park anymore. There was no longer any uncertainty for New York. The Yankees had won their 27th World Series, christening their new home. Fans gradually came to a realization that new memories can be made and new history can be created.

Winning. Solves. Everything.

For 100 years, Wrigley Field has stood. With it, has come 17 postseason appearances, 6 NL Pennants, and 0 World Series victories for the Cubs. That is bleak.

Through the lack of championships, however, I can remember every good time I’ve had in Wrigley field. It’s allowed four generations of my family to watch baseball and our beloved Cubs. My grandmother watched Jackie Robinson and Ron Santo. Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. The great Babe Ruth had his alleged “called shot” occur on Wrigley Field. The history is almost never-ending and amazing.

But what more do we have as Cubs fans besides our history? While important, I want more. I want to win.

The plans for renovations at Wrigley are well-documented. In response, some fans are calling for the stoppage of adding signage and the halting of any changes to Wrigley Field. I can’t say that I don’t understand, because I do. I truly do. Any time change surrounds something nostalgic, it’s incredibly difficult. But the fact is that the proposed renovations set to take place are an important step in the right direction. We need that change. Players and fans alike deserve it. In order to field a winning team, players should have the ability to use top notch facilities if an organization can support it. Fans should have ability to watch top tier talent if the organization can support it. This support comes from advertising dollars stemming from new signage, new initiatives to gain corporate money, and whatever else the owners can come up with to create revenue. It’s important for us to understand that.

There seems to be two schools of thought that I have heard and read. (1) “I understand that we need to change and catch up with the rest of baseball, but it makes me sad.” (2) “The Ricketts are ruining this great franchise.” I can’t help those that say the latter. But for those who say the former, I feel your pain.

We need to understand that Wrigley Field isn’t coming down.  We also need to look at what happened with the Yankees.  I don’t mean to suggest that after our renovations are complete, the Cubs will win a World Series.  But New York’s way of thinking is something that we can’t disregard and need to consider. While their new stadium isn’t perfect, it’s something to behold. I’ll be the first to admit that I would shed a tear if Wrigley ever came down. But we’re a long way off from that. In the meantime, we need to catch up.

Nostalgia is important in sports. But so is change. And we have to change.

*For what it’s worth, the first ever game played at the new Yankee Stadium: an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs.
  • BenRoethig

    I agree 100%. Wrigley as it stands is as much a liability as it is an asset. It may be the cathedral of baseball, but you don’t let a cathedral rot just so you can sit in the pews. The Cubs need to either make the money to fix her and make modern improvements for both fan and player alike. With no chance of Public funding, they need to do that with ad revenue. If they can’t get places to place the signage, that leaves with with a crumbling ballpark with antiquated facilities. The only way to renovate would be take money out of the baseball operations budget and continue indefinitely with a glorified AAA budget in a major market.

    The Cubs either need to get this done or move on to the next chapter. The status quo doesn’t work.

  • Cubsin

    The preservationists need to realize that they can’t have what they want. Maintaining Wrigley Field as it is today is not an option. If the Ricketts or any other owners want a successful and profitable team, they need either an updated and improved Wrigley Field with more signage and more amenities or a new ballpark. If the Cubs are forced to move, the annual maintenance cost of preserving Wrigley Field is in the neighborhood of $10 million, which nobody would be willing to pay, Soon enough, Wrigley Field would collapse under its own dead weight, and would have to be torn down at taxpayer expense.

  • OlderStyle

    “But what more do we have as Cubs fans besides our history? While important, I want more. I want to win.”

    ding. ding. ding.

  • Ivy Walls

    Statistics over generations don’t lie, denying them is the lying part. Yankee stadium somehow must hold a real home field advantage for either the team or the players that play there. It is a combination of things including money, but also attention.

    Wrigley is ruled by many factors, the primary one is it is out of step with 29 other clubs because of imposed regulations on lights, 44 games are not enough, 81 minus Sunday and get away is the right number.

    Wind, and weather are another. Baseball is fatigue, baseball is every win in April is equal as a win in September, because it makes September wins more important.

    Those who oppose this are not fans or relevant and are parasites.

  • Boogens

    I’m not sure where this article is really coming from. I haven’t heard any rumblings about not changing Wrigley, only the renovate vs. move drumbeat and this is mostly prompted by the barriers the Cubs have encountered with the city (initially) and the rooftop owners (ongoing). Myles, can you tell us specifically what prompted you to write this article?

    • BenRoethig

      Not doing anything is the what’s going to happen if the rooftops win and tie this up for 10 years. You can’t do a $ 300 million upgrade without a revenue source without it completely gutting the Cubs. I’m hopeful for a deal, but in the end we have to ask what our endgame is. Is it sitting in the bleachers drinking beer or is it watching the Cubs win a world series. If we can’t do that at Wrigley, are we ready to move on.

      • Boogens

        I agree with you that change is needed, BR, but my point was that I haven’t heard anything from anyone about preserving Wrigley (menaing choosing intentionally to do nothing). I have heard all of the arguments about how the change should occur and specifically the arguments between the Cubs and RTOs.

        My question to Myles was where have we heard anything about the do nothing at all faction? The RTOs aren’t advocating a do-nothing approach, they just want to dictate the pieces that affect them to minimize the impact the changes will have on their businesses.

        • FFP

          Mark Twain said there is no difference between a man who cannot read and a man who does not read.

          I’d submit there is no difference between “choosing intentionally to do nothing” and doing nothing.

          Politics, parasites, or poor planning. Whatever the reasons, the business ramifications are the same.

          • kj1

            Perfect!

          • Boogens

            “I’d submit there is no difference between “choosing intentionally to do nothing” and doing nothing.”

            I’m not exactly certain what your point is. Are you criticizing the Cubs for doing nothing? We may not be enamored with the speed or the specific compromises that have been reached to date but it’s inaccurate to suggest that the Cubs are espousing a do-nothing philosophy.

            All I was trying to get at is that I’ve heard a lot of opinions back and forth re: rebuilding Wrigley but I haven’t heard anyone favoring a do-nothing / preservation perspective so I asked Myles about what the impetus was for his story. It was a simple question.

    • Myles

      There have been a few articles calling for no change. I’ve also spoken with an overwhelming amount of people who are truly scared that the “charm” of Wrigley will be lost. I was a bit tired of it.

      • Boogens

        OK – thanks for sharing that. Helps me to fill in the blanks.

  • Diehardthefirst

    The problems summarized by Brett would exist even without the Rooftoppers which is why Mr Ricketts needs to do whatever it takes to deal with them so can move on

  • brainiac

    so you live in rosemont?

  • DrReiCow

    Myles,

    I enjoy your pieces, including this, however I think a much better comparison park would be Fenway Park. The Red Sox threatened leaving their building, and (fortunately) stayed, with major additions. Those additions gave them the payroll and modernization they needed, while keeping them in a beloved ancient park with personality and history. This is the track I feel is best for the Cubs, and what they appear to be moving down.

    I also feel that Fenway is a better comparison because it has interesting physical characteristics like Wrigley, and it has a franchise that faced similar problems with the facilities being outdated and inadequate. (Say what you will about the history of old Yankee Stadium, it had little in the way of “character”.. the place was pretty bland. I was very disappointed when I went.) The Red Sox had to deal with the historic neighborhood around Fenway, as the Cubs do in Wrigleyville, and the limitations of the plot of land they were on, yet they made it work. In addition, they made it work without destroying what made Fenway Fenway.

    I went to Fenway both before and after its major upgrade, and while it lost some old-timey charm during the upgrade, that was offset by the comforts of modernization. I was really happy with post upgrade Fenway, and would love to see something similar (if less ad-heavy) done with Wrigley. That way we could have the advantages of a modern park, with the charm of an ancient one.

    Moo.

    • BenRoethig

      The one difference here is that Red Sox did it right and threatened to build a new Fenway. Ricketts laid out his hand in the first move. His inner Cubs fan gave the opposition leverage. In the business, you always need to make the thing you want most seem like plan B.

      • DrReiCow

        True, but I still feel Fenway is a better comparison to Wrigley than Yankee Stadium.

        Moo.

        • FFP

          No. There was much talk of the wrecking ball, the water table, the poor location. Through out the 1980’s and much of the 90’s many new, credible sites were proposed.
          I parked at work for years behind an avid fan who proudly kept a “Save Fenway Park” bumper sticker on his expensive sports car.

          In 1999 a formal plan was proposed by the then owners. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-05-16/sports/9905160167_1_new-fenway-fenway-park-new-stadium

          This may have been a leverage play, but this thankfully never happened:
          [img]http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/american/bosbpk02.jpg[/img]

          otherwise; Rei; –Moo, too.

          • DrReiCow

            FFP,

            What were your thoughts about Fenway pre and post renovation?

            Moo!

            • FFP

              The LAST thing I wanted was an imitation “Fenway” like they finally built for ST in FLA (although there is some justification for that there).

              I wanted to “save Fenway,” (no surprise), but if a new location were to be chosen (and I had been convinced it was necessary!); I wanted a new, 21st century design. A green monster with no city right-of-way on the other side, forcing it into the sky, would have been the worst form of sentimentalism.

              How things turned out (with the re-hab of the old park AND the additional “block party” on annexed Yawkey Way ::gazing lustily at Sheffield:: on gameday) couldn’t have turned out better for the Olde Towne team and its fans.

              • DrReiCow

                FFP,

                I meant GOING to Fenway before and after.. not moving it. I had no desire to see it moved nor a new one (same with Wrigley).

                In addition, I don’t understand what you mean with ‘an imitation “Fenway” like they finally built for ST in FLA.’ ST? I presume FLA is Florida..

                Moo.

                • BenRoethig

                  JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers. Spring training facility. Dimensions and angles were built to mimmic Fenway Park. Cubs are doing the same thing with Cubs Park. Its got almost the same dimensions as wrigley, but adjusted for the the less dense air in Arizona.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JetBlue_Park_at_Fenway_South

                • FFP

                  Sorry. I misunderstood. I loved Fenway Park before.
                  (I didn’t mind flecks of paint from the light standards blowing in my beer. I didn’t think the ‘troughs’ were bad. –I wasn’t forty.)

                  With the renovation I think the venue has lost exactly nothing (although I miss the bench style bleachers–bring a cute gymnast to a sparsely attended game, and you and fellow fans will never forget it).
                  Fenway has gained revenue for its team and comfort for its fans. The last three games I went to were just as memorable as my first three: The slant of light; The sweet smallness that put me right on the field no matter where I sat; the Century-long tradition I was giddy to attach my day to– But (before I swore off the Sox), in the renovated park I brought kids, or I brought my girl, or I brought out-of town visitors who were not even into baseball; always confident they would have a memorable, safe, comfortable time.

                  And Yes. Spring training in Florida is now played in Fort Myers at JetBlue Park which brags of field the exact same dimensions as the ones in Boston and the shadows play the same way they do at home in June. (But, family members say that JetBlue Park has aluminum seats that are a hazard to shorts wearing tourists and their children in the Florida Sun. From driving by it, I think it looks like the rest of manmade Florida–just plunked there.)

                  Of course I don’t go to either JetBlue of Fenway anymore because my team doesn’t play there (My team is reporting in Mesa (soon!)). In fact I spent four days in Fort Myers last week, and it didn’t even occur to me to go to JetBlue Park.

                  Rei, you are in Boston, no? You like what they did there? ANY chance we do something like they do on Yawkey Way with Sheffeld or Waveland?

                  • DrReiCow

                    I just moved from Rhode Island, where I spent many years finishing school. While in RI I went to a number of Sawx games (post-renovation.. I lived elsewhere when I went pre-renovation).

                    I do like what they did with Yawkey Way and would enjoy seeing it at Wrigley. I think it could work, as the only real downside is traffic snarl, which happens at Wrigley anyway.

                    Moo.

    • Myles

      Fair point.

    • cavemancubbie

      I found the Fenway community different in character from Wrigleyville; less residential more business and light industry. Night games didn’t interfere with a lot of people getting a good night’s sleep. I do not share your thesis of wrigley/fenway comparisons, either in neighborhood or stadium footprint.

      • DrReiCow

        I agree that Wrigleyville is more residential, hence the day games, however, I feel a lot of the issues the Cubs face with Wrigley are more in regards to the businesses nearby (rooftops?). In that manner, the businesses have prominence in Wrigleyville, similar to the Fenway/Kenmore area.

        As to the stadium footprint, I was referring to how the stadiums are surrounded by businesses, residential buildings, etc., thus limiting their expansion. Yankee stadium was not – it had a lot of open green space along with a parking lot. Heck, they built the new Yankee Stadium next door while still playing in the old one. Cubs can’t do something like that with Wrigley.

  • EQ76

    The biggest difference between the Yanks saying goodbye to old Yankee Stadium and us potentially leaving Wrigley is that they actually got to win, A LOT, in Yankee Stadium.. I would love to see what Wrigley looks like during/after a WS title.. Winning it at a new park would be great, but would still leave a little bit of a hole in the heart feeling if not at Wrigley.

  • bushybrows74

    Good article. We all seem to be on the Cubs side that more revenue is important to field a competitive team. The timing on this stuff is poor when payroll is so low. The Cubs could get everything they want from higher ticket prices, to advertising, and throw in public financing. The team would still say they are not ready to spend due to the nature of the roster.

    • brainiac

      this is right on. this article gets the whole thing wrong. some people just happen to care about tradition. i know it’s getting rarer these days and seems almost clumsily earnest to most, but we don’t need a giant cell phone hoisted in front of our eyes to look at through our cellphones. we just need a good team on the field and people will come and enjoy the game.

      the cubs have the revenue, triangulated by multiple financial magazines and newspapers, but are unwilling to spend it on the team. it has nothing to do with the rooftops, the park, or the last FO. it has to do with wanting a certain overhead and holding the city hostage until it’s obtained.

  • mikelach13

    Good article and I agree with the need for the changes that are coming.

    One question: did you mean Billie Williams, where you said “Bernie Williams and Ernie Banks”?

    • Myles

      Sure did. Nice catch. I must’ve still had Yankees on the mind.

  • 5412

    Hi Brett,

    I think there is one more point to be made in your great article. THE REASON THE YANKEES WON MORE THAN OTHER TEAMS WAS THEY TOOK IN MORE MONEY AND PUT IT INTO THE PRODUCT ON THE FIELD.

    Steinbrenner told a good friend of mine that, “Even with a $200 million payroll, he nets $50 profit on the season”. That was a decade ago, Lord knows how much they make now with their own network.

    The Tribune, on the other side, milked the cash cow, put no money into the product, nor did they take advantage of the wave of public money to build new stadiums with their costly luxury suites.

    If a team wants to win consistently, they must have a revenue stream to support it. With free agency being what it is today, you just have to have the money.

    When the Marlins won their first World Series, Huizenga,said “I did everything right, won the World Series and lost $25 million in the process.” He then sold the Marlins and bought the Dolphins saying football has a much better economic model, every team should make a profit.

    So those who want nostalgia; the question then becomes this. Are you willing to take consistently losing as part of that memory? Without a solid revenue stream to compete, you may get lucky but that is about it.

    Ricketts hired 120 people for the front office to bring the team up to par. He laid out millions for a Dominican Baseball academy, just to bring the team up to par. He found and paid for some of the top talent at the management level on the baseball side that was available. Unlike other owners he is not telling them how to do their job. What a blessing that is! He is not like the owner sitting in front of the stove saying, “give me some heat and I will go get you some wood!” He has spent the kind of money most of us can only dream of.

    Even with that, he also realizes it will take a few hundred million more coming into the coffers annually to fund a consistent winner. That will not be offset by filling the park, other sources must be found.

    Brett I agree with you. I am 73 years old and want to see a consistent winner before I die. Screw it, fill the park with signs. Win back to back World Series and see how quickly I can forgive changing some memories.

    Today I tell my grandchildren, “I remember black and white TV’s” Well the next generation may have to say, “I remember when the walls were covered with ivy”. Not such a big deal sitting with your grandchildren at Wrigley watching a winner, adding a 5th or 6th generation to the line of Cub fans.

    regards,
    5412

    • DrReiCow

      This article was written by Myles, not Brett. Just want to give credit where it is due.

      Moo.

      • 5412

        Hi,

        Sorry about that. Indeed Myles wrote a dandy.

        regards,
        5412

  • 5412

    Hi,

    No matter how hard I try to edit my own stuff I missed one.

    Steinbrenner said $50 million.

    5412

  • Medicos

    Excellent article about changes at the Friendly Confines. Been a Cubs fan since 1952 (have seen only 17 winning seasons) and for years have felt removing the centerfield scoreboard and replacing it with the proposed multi-million $$$$ Jumbotron would enhance the experience of going to Wrigley Field. Even the traditionalists wouldn’t miss the old scoreboard in a couple of years.

  • Tman

    I suppose I’m one of those sad to see it go types, but I get where other folks are coming from and I’m a majority rules kind of person. I live about 5 blocks south of Wrigley. I love this city and I love taking out of town visitors around it. Up until last year, I used to take in about 5-6 games a year, mostly with out of town guests to Wrigley.

    I think the proposed improvements in and around the stands are fantastic. The new mezzanine around the outside of the grandstands could be spectacular. In no way should anyone feel that these changes along with the underground work to the dugouts and locker rooms be a detriment to the experience of being at the game. What I feel sad about is the changes to the experience of watching the game.

    There have already been incremental changes to the fan experience since new ownership. Along with less wins, there is less organ. Music and ads so loud between innings it’s hard to chat with the person sitting next to you, let alone anyone around you. The added LED board in right field doing it’s best to induce whatever seizures it can.

    Fortunately, the new owners promise the jumbotron will be used tastefully.

    These kind of changes are not just a bummer, it’s downright mystifying. I always thought the unique gentleness of the park was an asset to revenues. I thought the ticket prices and attendance figures demonstrated that clearly. I certainly never imagined it was a liability.

    I’m not saying I would boycott Wrigley Field because of the continuing changes, (Although I will never drink that brand of urine from St Louis again) but if I only had a day to show someone the city, I would honestly be less inclined to list Wrigley Field as an absolute must see.

    I mean, why fly in from another part of the country just to go to a McDonalds?

    • FFP

      Good post, Tman. I especially appreciate your observation of the changing soundscape.

    • mjhurdle

      To use your analogy, the reason you would come is because you are a big fan of McDonalds and you want to see one of the two original McDonalds left in the world.
      I can honestly say that the proposed changes and the visual representations of what those changes will look like makes me much more likely to travel to Wrigley from STL. I usually do 2 trips a year, but that will probably go up once the renovations are complete.

      • hansman

        BUT THEY PUT IN COMPUTER ORDERING AND ELECTRONIC ORDER BOARDS!

        • FFP

          (And hansman knows hamburgers)

      • Brocktoon

        I’m all for the renovations so #PoorTomRicketts can make his 50M/year and actually carry a non-embarrassing payroll for the major league team, but what about the renovations makes you more likely to travel to Wrigley?

    • hansman

      I wonder if the perceived decibel levels were noticed before or after the LED sign in RF.

      • Tman

        lol, On opening day 2013 up in the grandstands, it wasn’t so bad. Later in the year I sat with a friend in the club box seats between home plate and third base and it was crazy loud. Before the game started there was this prerecorded thing with excerpts from radio broadcasts that not only was crazy loud, but confusing to understand and yeah, that right field LED board was annoying as hell during the breaks.

        The friend I was with was a Mets STH and so it wasn’t out of place to him. Although I’ve enjoyed a few games there with him over the years, Citi Field is everything I’m not crazy about in a ballpark, but it has it’s own thing going and that’s okay.

  • cubbieblue1991

    I completely understand the renovations and they do not bother me.. however I have spent some time deeply reflecting on a question a little bit different. Would I support the Cubs moving to Rosemont if it greatly increased their chances of winning the WS?.. it’s not an easy question to answer. I feel like it should be, but it’s not.

    Any thoughts?

    • Tman

      If it really were to increase their chance of winning, I would be okay with it.

      It’s not as if the Cubs can just leave Wrigley though. They would have to sell it or give it away. That would be a pretty big loss to take. (Although it would be a nice place for a public park)

      I’m not an automatic believer that if they make more money they will spend more. I think they will spend more money if there is an incentive to do so. I think a new TV contract will do far more to reward increasing the team’s payroll than any stadium change could do. If they just make things interesting as contenders, they can start selling out again. They don’t need to move.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Will the Cubs be installing charging stalls for the electric cars? May be required at all public venues

  • Diehardthefirst

    Bingo! There’s the answer right in front of Ricketts eyes- do what Rangers did selling naming rights to Globe Ins as way to compensate for no Jumbotron until contract over – Sell naming rights to say Toyota for 10 mil yr for next 10 yrs- Toyota Field home of the Cubs

    • Voice of Reason

      There are people on this website that go nuts over a new pizza being added to the menu.

      I can’t even begin to believe what the reaction will be over changing the name of Wrigley Field because a company is buying the rights.

      • Diehardthefirst

        As you point out – nothing’s sacred or etched in stone- wonder which company would pay that much for a long contract-positive Ricketts would take the call to listen

  • Diehardthefirst

    What is sacrosanct about still calling the park Wrigley? The name has outworn its utility and relevance – Ricketts could auction naming rights to highest bidder and see what develops – could solve lots of revenue issues

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