November 22, 2009 6:57 PM
By Paul Sullivan
The Cubs have fired the opening salvo in a dispute against a local casino, erecting two sign boards in the back of the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
The potential signage would obscure a prominent casino ad in most TV camera shots.
The two large, green, wooden sign boards were erected in the bleachers last week without fanfare. There is no advertising on them, but they’re expected to be ready for the 2010 season.
“The signage is in place as we evaluate marketing opportunities,” Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said. “Given our partnerships and agreements with the other rooftops, that particular location in the bleachers would work out.”
A likely sponsor is Bud Light, which bought naming rights to the bleachers during the reconstruction project before the 2006 season. The only building directly affected by the sign is the one at the corner of Sheffield and Kenmore Avenues, commonly referred to as the “Budweiser building” after the beer company that advertised on its roof for years.
Photo: Two large, green sign boards have been installed at the rear of the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field. (Michael Tercha/Tribune)
Rooftop owner Tom Gramatis bought the building for $8.4 million in June of 2008, and placed a brown tarp over the Budweiser sign shortly before the 2008 playoffs, claiming Anheuser-Busch was late with its payment. A Cook County judge later ordered the removal of the tarp before the playoffs, but Gramatis eventually sold the rights to the Horseshoe Casino, which placed its ad on the roof last April.
While the Cubs weren’t happy with the Horseshoe Casino ad, there was nothing they could do to prevent it from dominating the left-center field vista of Wrigley Field. But new chairman Tom Ricketts decided it was time to take action, with a plan to block out the building during Cubs telecasts and have their own sponsor in its place.
Chase didn’t directly refer to the casino ad, but said the Cubs are “looking to protect our corporate partner family who invest their resources with us to be our official sponsors. It’s important that we protect our brand in the marketplace, protect the value of our corporate partners and protect against anyone trying to ambush our brand.”
Gramatis was unavailable for comment.
The only signage currently in view in the bleachers are the Under Armour ads on the outfield doors. Budweiser previously bought ad space under the center field scoreboard during the 1980’s.
Upon taking over the Cubs, Ricketts pointed to Boston’s revamping of Fenway Park, which included more ad signage in the ballpark.
“There are things that make Wrigley different from Fenway, that we have to be respectful of as we go through and think of the things we’re going to do with our stadium,” he told the Tribune. “And I think the key is, we definitely see what they’ve accomplished and we’d like to emulate some of that success.”