16 November 2010

You want HOW MUCH?!?

Interesting bit of off-season Cubs news. Seems new Cub owner Tom Ricketts wants to add improvements to Wrigley Field. I have an idea on how to improve the place, and it involves a B-52 and a stick of GPS-guided bombs. Clear out the debris afterward and build a decent ballpark with parking.

Seriously, though, the place was built in 1914 (I know this because the last hot dog I bought there may have dated from that very year) and desperately needs work to provide decent facilities for both the players and the fans. I've toured the park, including the player clubhouses, and I know they've shoehorned in about everything they can into the place.

The Ricketts family have a list of things they want and/or need to do, and the bill comes out to a cool $300 million dollars. They want the State of Illinois to float a bond issue to raise money to do this.

Say what?

Tom, have you not seen the state's budget? Did you not watch any of the election commercials? We're $15 billion in the hole! Where's the state going to come up with any dough?

Governor Quinn, on the strength of his 9,800 vote 'mandate of the people' (out of the million or so votes cast-that ain't a 'mandate' unless only 10,000 people vote) has already promised tax increases for all of us here, so I think the Rickettses picked precisely the wrong time to ask for a handout.

And why should everyone in Illinois pay for renovations to what is essentially private property, anyway?

Did the Ricketts family not walk through Wrigley Field before they bought the Cubs? Geez, anybody buying a house knows enough to do that. I could've told you all you needed to sink a boatload of money into the place to get it into the 1980s, let alone the 21st century! Maybe you should have negotiated a few hundred mill out of the Tribune when you bought the Cubs to help pay for the work.

And when did sports franchise owners take to going hat in hand to the state governments any time they want a new stadium or upgrade their old one? Well, I know the answer to that-why spend your own money when you can spend someone else's?-but, really, this is getting old. I'm not sure how many times an owner can say 'We'll leave town if you don't give us what we want.' If that team has been bad forever, I'd say 'Don't let the doorknob hit you in the ass on the way out.' The old-time owners spent their own money to build their parks.

I hate hearing the owner of any major sports franchise cry 'poor'. Way I see it, if you can't afford a team, get out of the game. And I'll say it here to the Ricketts clan: 'You guys bought a Major League Baseball team that generates a lot of money. Most of you went to college here in Chicago and spent time at Wrigley as students. Didn't you see the park was a dump? You had nearly a billion to invest in this team. If you can't afford the necessary reno's, then sell the team to someone who can.'

Maybe they could-and this might be a dumb idea-actually go to one of big banks in Chicago-there are several-and borrow the money to make the improvements! That's kind of the way all the rest of us have to pay for home improvements, after all. I bet a big bank might even give you a favorable interest rate if you offered them naming rights to the renovated stadium.

The state government, in a fit of sense rarely seen here, is somewhat lukewarm to spend money they don't have for something they won't get much return on. Finally.

One wonders if raising ticket prices isn't the way to go. That way, only the fans have to pay for the big fix, instead of everyone in Illinois. I personally would hate to see ticket prices go up $10 each, but it's my choice to go to the game.

We'll see how this plays out. I suspect not well for Cubs ownership.

yankeedog out.


  1. So a private investor bought a sports team and wants the government to spend the money improving the facilities he bought so he can either charge more per ticket or get more people through the door. That's pretty much what you said above or am I missing something?

    Nice work if you can get it I guess.

  2. Yup Barnes. This is pretty much default practice for 'franchise' owners in US sports - it's why the Seattle NBA team now plays in Oklahoma City, because Seattle wouldn't build them a shiny new stadium like they did for the NFL and MLB teams.

    Govt should offer them revenue sharing. We'll build a stadium for half the revenue generated from the ball club. Inclusive of TV rights.

  3. So if the state coughs up it'll be free entry? Reasonable drink/food prices. Didn't think so.

  4. Barnesy-Yep, you figured rightly. And yes, it's quite the scam.

    Doc-Now I like that idea! We could recoup some of that money outlaid. Won't happen, but it's a hell of a good thought. You'd see how fast owners would quit asking government for money if some brave pollie made that offer!

    Bangar-Yeah, that's a good one! Actually we fans should pay increased prices. We voluntarily chose to go to a sporting event. No one forced us to go.

    You'd think the various leagues would have a fund for major stadium renovations. It's in every owner's best interest to see that every team in the league has decent facilities.

  5. Yeah, but the established model for each league is the individual franchisees extort a deal out of their host cities. I would see the Cubs owners are actually in a worse position than say the owners of the Sonics in the NBA, to use a recent example. Moving an iconic club like the Cubs out of Chicago would be suicide, they'd be castigated. They're kind of obliged to stick within the city limits. Dare I say ground-share with the White Sox?

  6. Doc-I think you could put the Cubs in one of the near suburbs and not cause a problem (at least in my world). Two teams have shared the same stadium in the past-the Yankees and the Mets shared Shea Stadium in the early 1970s when Yankee Stadium was being renovated. But it can be tough for rainouts and there probably would br a backlash from both teams' fans. It wouldn't bother me all that much-The Cell looks much roomier than Wrigley.

  7. No self-respecting Cubs fan would go to Comiskey to see a baseball game. Would. Not. Happen. The Yankees didn't mind it so much because it got their fans into someplace decent (the Bronx will always be a shithole).

    Don't forget though, that the state makes a killing off of sales taxes from concessions sold there, not to mention tax revenue from all other events that go on there. Investing in a sports venue isn't a bad investment for the government, as long as the deal is structured so you make money off of it. A share of ticket revenue and of course the tax money, plus shares of ticket revenue for other events that go on there during the year. Every time there's a home game, sales in local bars and restaurants go up, local shops, off-site parking lots, etc, all of which the city and state make money off of, so the state is better off having the stadium there than not...as long as they can make money off of it.

    But yeah, Wrigley was probably a shithole when my mom was going to Cubs games there in the 40's and 50's. Still, the best fan base in baseball, not debatable.

  8. Steve, it wouldn't bother me all that much. The Cell and Miller Park are an order of magnitude better parks than Wrigley can possibly be.

    Your points are well taken-but the revenue that would come in over a season is a drop in the bucket compared to our debt situation here in Illinois.

    Now, I do like the idea of a new Cubs stadium with parking and expressway access and a retractable roof so it could be used all year 'round. I just can't see why the state should fund the lion's share of it.