Wrigley Field signboards likely won’t face landmark review

Landmark group: Law doesn’t cover fence at Wrigley

By Paul Sullivan Tribune reporter

November 24, 2009

If the Cubs decide to place advertising signage on the large green boards erected in the Wrigley Field bleachers, as expected, it’s unlikely to be subjected to landmark review.

“We looked at the landmark ordinance and don’t think it would be covered,” said Jim Peters, president of Landmark Illinois, the Chicago-based historic preservation advocacy group. “The chain-link fence is listed as a ‘non-contributing element’ (to Wrigley’s landmark status).”

The Cubs attached two green plywood boards to the chain-link fence at the back of the left-field bleachers late last week, blocking the view of the Horseshoe Casino advertisement on a Waveland Avenue rooftop for most TV camera shots.

There are no ads currently on the signboards, and more than four months remain before the 2010 home opener. But the decision to put up the boards now signals a new willingness by the Cubs to fight against what the organization believes is poaching of its brand.

“We need to look at our corporate partners and protect the value of our brand as an organization,” said Wally Hayward, who immediately walked into a controversy Monday after being named the executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer.

Hayward referred to the outfield area as “the Bud Light Bleachers,” an indication a beer company ad may be placed in the designated spot.

It would be the first ad on an outfield fence at Wrigley Field and would not impede the view of the Cubs’ rooftop partners, who contribute 17 percent of their profits to the team from an agreement reached in 2004.

Hayward said the wooden boards are not signs, calling them a “placeholder” in case the Cubs decide to put something there.

He declined to address the possibility of the boards blocking the casino ad in TV shots but mentioned that individuals have “created businesses” around Cubs home games “for a lot of years,” adding: “I’m big on partnerships and relationships.”

Tom Gramatis, the owner of the rooftop, did not return phone calls. A Horseshoe Casino spokesman could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Ricketts family referred questions to team operations, saying the family declined to comment.

No matter what the Cubs do with that particular space, the search for added revenue streams will be one of Hayward’s priorities in his new job.

Hayward said he’ll work closely with chairman Tom Ricketts and president Crane Kenney in developing the triangle building to the west of the ballpark. There is no start date, but Kenney said last month it could be built during the 2011 season and be ready for 2012.

Hayward spoke of “keeping Wrigley Field pure and enhancing the experience” for Cubs fans, though he said it was too early to detail what he has in mind. He would not rule out the installation of a JumboTron, which he said is on a long list of ideas and suggestions he has been presented. Hayward said he expected tinkering in the suites, and speculation is that exclusive club seating, similar to the Scouts Seats behind home plate at U.S. Cellular Field, may be part of the Cubs’ future.

As for the possibility of the Cubs reducing the amount of organ playing in favor of taped music, as the White Sox have done in recent years, Hayward laughed and said he’s a fan of the Wrigley Field organ.


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