There’s nothing quite like it in all of professional sports. The flags atop the center field scoreboard blowing gently in a lakefront breeze, the ivy in full bloom with the 400 in stark contrast against the bricks in center field and the sound of 40,000 Cubbie faithful.
In the near future, Wrigley Field will undergo a major facelift. When I say major, I mean major to the tune of some $500 million. The owner of the Cubs, Tom Ricketts, finally reached a deal with the City of Chicago in July that cleared the path for the long-needed renovations to begin.
So what exactly does $500 million worth of work get you these days?
Approximately 40 percent of the $500 million will go into Wrigley Field. This will include increased signage – some 35,000 square feet of signage in and around the ballpark, a massive video board that will sit behind the left field bleachers, several aesthetic changes throughout the Confines and a generally modified experience for fans.
According to reports, some of the first work that will be done involves facilities used by players. Currently, the Cubs home clubhouse is smaller than most suburban high school locker rooms, and lacks modern batting cages and workout facilities. Currently, if a player needs to take cuts prior to a pinch hit appearance, the staff hangs netting in the clubhouse, where players take a few swings. Needless to say, this is not exactly common.
The visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field will also be among the first items addressed by the renovations. This will be part of an expansion on Sheffield and Addison that also includes a new restaurant.
No official timetable has been released, but several reports are indicating that the Ricketts family, who have been pushing for renovations since purchasing the team in 2010, are eager to start improvements following the 2013 season.
This, in my opinion, is the probably the second-highest need on the Cubs’ wish list. The first, which is increase signage and revenue streams, will be discussed later this week, but for the time being, we’ll focus on training facilities and clubhouses.
We all know the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. And frankly, we don’t need reminded of that fact. But I have a theory on why the team has been so unsuccessful. Let’s take a look at the last ten years’ worth of World Series Champions: San Francisco (2), St. Louis (2), New York, Philadelphia, Boston (2), Chicago and Florida. Of those seven teams, all but Florida had some major renovations in their home field, or played in a newer stadium altogether. The only field that wasn’t built after 1990 would be Sun Life Stadium, which is home to the Marlins – and construction was completed there in 1987. (Granted, St. Louis’ first World Series came at Old Busch Stadium, as the current Busch Stadium neared completion).
Thus, all of these teams benefitted from additional, and often massive, revenue streams that were unavailable to teams such as the Cubs, who play in an outdated facility that quite simply, does not have the potential to field a World Series Champion.
With increased revenue streams comes increased player development budgets, scouting budgets, more modern facilities and more money to spend on free agents. Why have the Cubs been so unsuccessful of late? Simple. Because they’re a 21st century team playing in a 20th century ballpark.