Cubs Threaten Move from Wrigley

As part of yet another drama-filled speech by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, in a plea to the city of Chicago to build a 6,000 square foot video board on the left field wall, Ricketts proclaimed that the team would leave the location where the Cubs have been for the last 99 years.  While the threat seems real, the viability of the Cubs continuing to sell out while being in last or second to last in a potential future suburban location is slim to none.  The logistics behind the change in the target market are simply too critical to be ignored.  As a previous season ticket holder, I spent many of games with a fear of falling concrete or washing my hands in ice cold water on a just above freezing day in April and the appeal of a new stadium with glamorous amenities (as well as necessities like warm water and restocked toilet paper) would be a dream come true… but not in the suburbs. Having been to a Dodgers game recently in Los Angeles, after completion of the game, people simply returned to their cars and headed home. When I asked a fellow patron on where the nearest bar was located, they smiled and responded with “About 15 miles up the road.” However, being around Wrigley Field at the completion of a Cubs game (or sometimes before depending on the score) has a certain magic to it that cannot be replicated anywhere else. While Ricketts may appear to be negotiating at high stakes, the reality is that the Cubs would wither away without Wrigley but Wrigleyville would continue to thrive based on its shear appeal of location within the boundaries of the city and the proximity to other prestigious neighborhoods. In comparison, the move to the suburbs would cause the permanent fan base to drop immediately and the new fan base obtained would wear off after a few losing seasons. Having personally moved to the suburbs twelve years ago, there are friends that were next door neighbors that I have not seen since due to the inconvenience of traveling either to or from the city. But offer tickets to a Cubs game, and I’m on the blue line before you can tell me who the opponent is.

Besides the change in market demographics, the Cubs would need to work with local transportation as well as highway patrol to assure proper flow of traffic which again differs from the knowledge of traveling in the city. If the Kennedy is backed up, most people familiar with the area would be able to navigate through side streets even without GPS assistance but block an exit on the Elgin-O’Hare and you might as well shut down the entire highway.

So what are your thoughts on a potential Cubs move? Do you think Ricketts has thought out all of the risks associated with the move?

11 thoughts on “Cubs Threaten Move from Wrigley

  1. I think this is more of an empty threat on Ricketts’ part if anything, and it would be a very risk decision if the Cubs were to move to the suburbs. Wrigley Field definitely needs some upgrades both in terms of amenities and safety. I agree that the after game experience would be very different if the Cubs were moved to the suburbs, it would be impossible to replicate the before and after game vibe of a Cubs game in Wriggleyville.

    I don’t think Ricketts has thought through all the risks associated with the move – I agree with your statement that the Cubs would struggle to regularly sell out games if located in the suburbs, and also with your point on traffic flow, something I didn’t think of but also believe that it would have a major impact on games.

  2. As a die hard baseball fan there is absolutely no way the Cubs will ever leave the north side. The Cubs mean too much to the city, not to mention the local economy of the area. One of the things that makes the Cubs organization stand out is its role in history. It is only 1 of 2 classic ballparks left in the major leagues and Wrigley Field is a tourist attraction. If you take that away from the organization and move them to the suburbs you are left with a mediocre ball club that does not win and has no sense of history.

    When the New York Yankees built the new Yankee stadium, they did so literally across the street from the old stadium. The white sox did the same thing when US cellular field was built to replace the old Comiskey Park. Moving these teams with such a great history out of their traditional locations would be catastrophic and basically stupid. The cubs are even more of an institution on the north side and I firmly believe moving the team to the suburbs would have serious effects on both the city and the team. The risks associated with the Cubs moving are not typical of other franchises given the history of the organization and its role in the local community. Management needs to realize that they are dealing with a rare set of circumstances and cannot approach this project like it would others.

  3. I firmly believe that Tom Ricketts is making a veiled threat to the city. He knows as well as anyone that your argument is very sound. He knows that moving would be the slow death towards being any other team. He wants to accelerate the payback on the close to $1 billion he spent on the team. He is being a shrewd business owner.

    I am a die hard Sox fan who loves to make the occasional trip to Wrigley field. I love the field, I love the atmosphere around the stadium. I am astounded with how many people are in the stands even when they are terrible. On the flip side, when the Sox are bad, the fans let management know by not showing up. The Sox have what the Cubs want. A parking lot. New Amenities. A family friendly atmosphere with the Kid Zone in left field. The Cubs have what the Sox want. An inelastic fan base that spends money on the team regardless of wins or losses.

    While I think all of this banter sounds great in the headlines, I really don’t think there are any risks being taken by the Ricketts; there is no way they are moving.

    1. The Ricketts need to take a step back and maybe review where their revenue is coming in from. They are part a larger picture known as Wrigleyville. What would be interesting to know is how much research has been done regarding their projected profits if they did move to the suburbs. Tied into the location of the field regarding nightlife is also public transportation which makes it quite easy for many to get to the game. For instance, how many season ticket holders take the train to the game? And how many would drop their season tickets if the Cubs did indeed move to the suburbs? There are many factors to why Wrigley field brings in so much cash. Have the Ricketts really thought this business transaction through in regards to moving the field?

  4. As a Chicagoan, we are often faced with one similar question: are you a Cubs or Sox fan? I have pondered this question many times and my answer is always this: i am definitely not a Sox fan, but I am also not a Cubs fan. I often say that I am a Wrigley fan. I would have to say this is true for most of us. The majority of the people that go to watch the Cubs games are there for the comradary of the teams, the environment of the neighborhood, and the entertainment that surrounds the event. If the Cubs left Wrigley field, their game attendance would decrease enormously. This is not to say that there are not a few die hard Cubs fans, but It is obvious that few actually stay for the entire duration of the game while most could be found at Sluggers, Red Ivy, or another nearby bar by the start of the third inning. Therefore, i don’t think Ricketts has really thought of the implications this would have in his team and the financial outcome the proceeds his decision. Growing up in Toledo, I saw the Mudhens stadium being torn down and rebuilt. They mayor of Toledo insisted that a new stadium would attract a larger crowd to the games. This was only true for the first year, probably because everyone, including me, wanted to see the new stadium. By the second year, game attendance had decreased again and the stadium was losing money on its investment. Therefore, if the cubs left wrigley, they would really need to step up their game to attract a large audience.

  5. It seems that Ricketts cannot at all be called a project manager. He may be a manager but this does not make him a project manager.

    Have Ricketts done:
    – received approval from the project board for such statement?
    – risk assessment?
    – risk management plan?
    – cost analysis of this variation order?
    – provided a schedule for the entire move if it end up happening?

    I really doubt! It seems that the threatening is just an empty one which can damage Ricketts reputation.

  6. I don’t think he’s thought through all of the risks, because it’s an empty threat. They can’t move from Wrigley, and everyone (including the city) knows this. The cubs are not financially successful if they’re not playing in Wrigley.

  7. I echo anna’s sentiment – I’m not a fan of either, but I prefer Cubs because of what’s around Wrigley rather than what’s in it. And you don’t have to go all they way to LA to experience what Lisa did, you just have to go to the South Side (sorry Sox fans – it’s true!). While Chicago has a lot to lose if the Cubs go to the suburbs, I think the Cubs have way more to lose by leaving.

    Personally (and perhaps because baseball doesn’t mean much to me), I am amazed at how much cities will spend of the taxpayer’s money to appease team owners’ wishes. For those of you who travel, do you realize that some of the taxes that pad up hotel and rental car bills go towards new stadiums and other ridiculous expenses on behalf of private businesses? In my opinion, for every million dollars the city spends on a facility and other concessions for a sports team, each taxpayer of that city should get a free ticket.

    Anyway, enough ranting. I think the Ricketts’ threats are empty ones, and they would be idiots to move the Cubs out of Chicago for any longer than it takes to renovate Wrigley to bring it up to current standards.

  8. As I read your blog I couldn’t help to think obout the amount of planning, time and money that would be involved in building a new stadium. From architects to construction workers to food vendors to advertising, the list goes on and on. I think the sheer size of the project to build a new stadium makes it more preferential to keep the Cubs in Wrigleyville.

  9. Moving the Cubs would destroy the economy and culture of the north side. Further, the Cubs would have to build a new identity if they moved. This is an indirect cost of the new stadium project and the value attached to it is priceless. There is no replacing over 100 years of history not to mention a community that relies on the team. I really think the city of Chicago would need to step in should the talks of the Cubs moving become serious as the effect it would have on the city would be devastating. Obviously, this is something Chicago cannot afford to let happen.

  10. Personally, I think it’s just an empty threat on Ricketts side. The only valuable asset he has in his hands is Cubs stadium location. Cubs fans love the team location, surroundings, access, and continuity of being part of the city. Honestly, there is no real historical success, nor future potential (yet) value on the team side for such decision to make sense. Killing Ricketts’ one and only cash cow and moving the stadium out of the city to suburbs in such a moment would be very unwise. I think it would be possible to make such step when the team is very strong World Series contender or winner for several years but only to the suburbs where there is still strong team’s fan base around. Otherwise, such move will bring nothing else but failure in the long run for Mr. Ricketts.

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