Tom Ricketts is causing a lot of stir in Chicago (Credit)
The saga around Wrigley Field is becoming a bit Tim Tebow-ish, as the issue is mainstay on many sports websites. Rumors are constantly being circulated, and it seems as if the story changes every day.
On top of that, every sports commentator has added his opinion to a situation that is rooted in a distinct Chicago community — Rick Reilly, please, just stick to golf. It is a situation that any outsider can’t possibly comprehend.
“Why would anyone want to sit on a rooftop, outside of the stadium?”
Growing up within walking distance of the park, and as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan (I bleed Cubbie Blue), the answer is still complicated. Wrigley Field is as much about the baseball as it is about the history, the camaraderie, and, of course, the losing. Though many have been entranced by the magic of Wrigley Field for one day, many of its patrons consider this ballpark a second home. Tom Ricketts, the Cubs current owner, clearly doesn’t.
Let’s start with what we know.
Mr. Businessman Tom Ricketts is not a Wrigley lifer. He was born and raised in Nebraska. Even now, he doesn’t live in Chicago; he resides in an upper-class suburb just to the north. He insists that the Cubs should be run like a business — and he has a “plan” to make that possible.
It begins with a $500 million renovation of the stadium. Ricketts is currently negotiating with Chicago legislators over the plan, and the process has been dragging on for weeks. The most contentious point of the deal is a 6,000-foot scoreboard that would be placed in the outfield.
There are two problems here.
- Wrigley Field is a bastion of baseball tradition.
The current scoreboard is still hand operated. It’s truly one of a kind.
- The rooftops.
The owners of the rooftops have a previous deal with the Cubs in which they share revenue. The owners feel that the new scoreboard could ruin their view, and they have said they are willing to take legal action to make sure the scoreboard isn't built.
But, Ricketts sees opportunity in the scoreboard and claims that it could generate large amounts of revenue through advertisements. He also insists that it won’t ruin the rooftop view, despite the dimensions of the planned scoreboard — it's three times larger than the current manual board.
Ricketts continually claims that Wrigley cannot be run like a “museum” and must instead run like a “business.” He is tired of losing revenue opportunities because of the need to maintain Wrigley’s historic attributes, and also wants to end, once and for all, the yearly repairs that the ailing stadium deals with.
I agree completely with Ricketts that an annual patch-up of Wrigley is a waste of money.
I completely disagree and think it is outrageous to think that the Cubs need more revenue to become more of a “business.”
The Cubs had the fourth highest revenue in 2012 ($274 million). They earned over $100 million more than the lowest grossing team (Tampa Bay). Since Ricketts continues to equate higher revenues with winning, let’s see if that proves true.
9 of the 10 playoff teams from last year generated less revenue than the Cubs. The Cubs haven’t managed to make the playoffs since 2008.
The Cubs had the 15th highest payroll in 2013. 5 of the 10 playoff teams in 2012 had lower payrolls.
So, Mr. Ricketts, it seems as if you have been running a “business,” and you’re just doing a really poor job of it. Without even getting into all of the terrible contracts the Cubs are dealing with — I’m looking at you, Alfonso Soriano — and the lack of winning since Ricketts has taken over, the two statistics above seem to say it all.
There is no reason to equate higher revenues with winning. And, even if there were, the Cubs are already in the top-5. For being one of the worst teams in baseball, the Cubs' attendance is consistently in the top-10, and they make plenty off overpriced beer and hot dogs.
Ricketts needs to quit playing hardball with one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of sports. No more playing the blame game with one of the strongest baseball neighborhoods anywhere. (It’s called Wrigleyville, for gosh sake.)
Mr. Ricketts: you decided to purchase the Chicago Cubs. Similarly, a businessman, like you, should have realized the baggage that came along with it. We Cubs fans are people who relish our tradition. We are also a people in dire need of success. It’s been over a hundred years since we won a World Series. $20 million a year in added revenue isn’t going to change our chances. Your management, or lack thereof, will. It has so far, and it will continue to do so if you refuse to run this organization like the “business” it really is.
By: Sam Barder