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Could the Cubs leave Wrigley Field?


Apr 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs fans in the bleachers yell at Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

In its 100th season, Wrigley Field is often praised by many baseball fans as a great place to watch a ballgame. Recent struggles between the Ricketts family and the city of Chicago have allegedly put the Cubs’ future at Wrigley in jeopardy.

Dan Bernstein of Chicagoland radio station 670 AM The Score, Tweeted earlier today about the team pondering all of its options – including leaving Wrigley Field – according to sources.

Sources: #Cubs frustration w/rooftops’ intransigence is high enough that they are discussing “unavoidable prospect” of options elsewhere.

The stadium’s history is undeniable.  In the last 100 years, moments such as Babe Ruth‘s “called shot,” Gaby Hartnett’s “Homer in the Gloamin,” Ernie Banks‘ 500th home run, Kerry Wood‘s 20-strikeout performance, Pete Rose‘s record-tying 4,191th base hit, and many more moments in baseball history earned Wrigley Field the designation of a “historic landmark” in the city of Chicago. Since this designation, ownership has changed and Wrigley is in desperate need of a major renovation. The Ricketts see potential for a large bump in revenue if certain changes are made, but they have been forced to jump through a number of hoops to get funding and approval. After much labor and many discussions, the Cubs finally got the approval needed from the city to make major renovations (which was challenging due to city ordinances and the landmark status).

After earning the approval of the city, the Cubs ran into another obstacle: the owners of the rooftops across the street from Wrigley. The rooftop owners have set up a nearly in-stadium experience for Cubs fans for years, and most of those years, the rooftop owners were doing so without paying the Cubs a dime. During the past owners’ tenure, the Cubs entered into a contract (in 2004) in which the rooftop owners agreed to pay the Cubs royalties and the Cubs agreed to a number of provisions that essentially do not allow the Cubs to put up signage or a Jumbotron that would block the rooftop owners’ premium views.

Recent plans reveal that the Cubs intend to put up a Jumbotron, and the rooftop owners have sued the Cubs. The Cubs have floated the idea of leaving Wrigleyville because of all of the hassle that they have faced in making the necessary changes. This raises two major questions: 1. Can the Cubs actually afford to leave?  2. If they do leave where would they go?

Personally, I think that the neighborhood and the city need the Cubs more than the Cubs need either. I have been going to Wrigley Field every summer throughout my entire life and while there are things about Wrigley Field that are endearing, it is an old stadium that at best needs slight renovation and at worst needs some wholesale changes. Simply put, Cubs fans should not be as tied to Wrigley as they are.

Fans have seen a total of zero championships celebrated on that field, so a change wouldn’t be devastating. Some look at it fondly, but others look at it and see a history of collapses and failures. Realistically, the Cubs have enough support that they would draw fans wherever they may go. Wrigleyville, on the other hand, could not survive without the Cubs. With numerous fantastic neighborhoods in the city, the bars and restaurants in Wrigleyville would eventually fail without the thousands of people that flock to the stadium throughout the summers.

Where could the Cubs go? It would almost have to be the suburbs, if existing reports are to suggest anything. Rosemont was one municipality that suggested it would be able to support the team. The Cubs would not leave the general Chicagoland area, but there is practically no chance that they could find any space in the city big enough to build a stadium of that size. While it would be sad to see them leave the city, I think in terms of the health of the franchise, this would not significantly hurt the team. I also think there is very little chance that the Cubs will actually leave. This is a phenomenal negotiating tactic as it demonstrates to the neighborhood and the city that the Cubs have the biggest chip in this negotiation.

As the classic song goes: “Should I stay or should I go?” – Your move, rooftops.