Ricketts’ plans include renovations to Wrigley, and an All-Star Game petition

October 30, 2009, 10:23 AM

By: Bruce Levine

New Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts likely will divulge business plans for the team on Friday.

The Ricketts and Cubs will petition for the 2014 All-Star Game to be held at Wrigley Field.

Ricketts will have his day in the sun even amidst the October wind and rain storms that will wash away his plans to make his first appearance as owner on the hallowed grounds of Wrigley.

Part of his plans for Wrigley centers around the 100th anniversary of the famed ballpark.

Rickets and team president Crane Kenney will petition Major League Baseball to have the 2014 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field.

At that point, the new ownership group hopes to spend between $200 million to $300 million in modernization and renovation of Wrigley for the celebration.

Some highlights of Ricketts’ goals are:

• To refurbish the grandstand and upper deck. The plan will include new sky boxes, restaurants and bars as part of the infrastructure.

• A new building — known as the triangle building — adjacent to the west side of the park. That will house team offices as well as a hall of fame and multiple retail shops and restaurants. The building will extend from the edge of the park on the west all the way to Clark Street; and on the north to Waveland. A multi-tiered parking facility also is scheduled to be constructed as part of this new area.

• Expanded wash rooms and a food court that will feature top restaurants and areas for families with young children to move around and relax in Wrigley’s vast new corridors.

• A multipurpose LED electronic scoreboard that will give fans the ability to see replays for the first time in history at Wrigley. The other purpose of the scoreboard will be to realize a significant amount of income selling advertising. In 2005, the Red Sox grossed $25 million in revenue from their scoreboard advertising. Finding a location for the scoreboard may be tricky for the Cubs. Any change in Wrigley must receive permission from the landmark authority, which has final say-so over the historic structure. The Cubs could avoid that hassle by making a deal with a rooftop owner to have the scoreboard on an existing roof. Size and weight will determine if that would be feasible. Both the city of Chicago and the neighborhood will have their say as to what noise pollution a new scoreboard outside of the ballpark would create. It’s likely the current scoreboard would remain intact due to the significance of the structure in the landmark deal.

Tom Ricketts appears to be committed to improving the experience of Cubs fans with a better product on the field and an improved ballpark.

• Naming rights are a viable means of income that the Cubs will have to explore as a part of their new business plan. The New York Mets have a 20-year deal with Citibank that brings in $20 million per season. Yankee Stadium, owned by the Steinbrenner family, refuses to mess with history by selling naming rights.

• The Cubs have great offers from Florida to move their spring training headquarters. The likelihood of that happening appears to be remote. Maricopa County, Ariz., where the Cubs reside in spring training now, will put its best foot forward to retain the Cubs, who are the biggest draw in the Valley of the Sun. The smart money is on a site in East Mesa, Ariz., as the next home of the Cubs’ spring training facility. The team can get out of its present contract at HoHoKam Park in Mesa after 2011. An Indian reservation casino in the Phoenix area may be Mesa’s main competition for the Cubs. • Personal seat licenses are a very tricky component of any baseball team’s business plans. PSLs never have been tried in Major League Baseball. The Cubs have to look at this as a means to realize tens of millions of dollars by asking season-ticket holders to pony up a one-time fee, possibly spaced out over four or five years, to own their seat locations permanently. The Cubs are third in average ticket prices in baseball, behind the Yankees and the Red Sox. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the Cubs are expected to announce by the end of the month a slight increase in prices for 2010. The prices have gone up over 30 percent over the past two years under Sam Zell and the Tribune Co. after freezing prices in 2007.

• Expanded locker rooms, which for the Cubs would include a state-of-the-art batting cage and an audio-visual work room for players and coaches where instant replay technology and video files are more accessible. • On the baseball front, it is assumed Ricketts will take a close look at his management teams, and is likely to stay away from making any rash decisions on his new watch. General manager Jim Hendry is under contract for three more years. Manager Lou Piniella has one year left on his contract. And Kenney was said to have a three-year or four-year extension in place.

The great news for Cubs fans is that the Ricketts family appears to be committed to winning every year as well as providing a ballpark that retains the charm and aura that has existed for 100 years, while providing modern amenities that will satisfy fans of all ages attending Cubs games.

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