The Cubs aren't giving up their fight to get public money to help with their fixer-upper project at Wrigley, which was news to House Speaker, Michael Madigan, who apparently didn't get the memo. But there was Tom Ricketts at a press conference yesterday surrounded by a bunch of Grabowskis, or rather, unionized Grabowskis, who are in favor of the Ricketts' plan because it means they will put about 1,000 of their brethren to work for a few years.
Tom may have made a misstep by bringing up his scheme right after an election when everyone is probably most aware of how fucked the economy and the budget are because of all the attack ads that assaulted us for the last two months, but he went right to work to spin things back in his favor. He wanted to show us how the "regular" people of Chicago and Illinois will benefit from his plan, and not just how much money he and his siblings will make without any risk.
At this point, I think anyone reading this knows how I feel about using government money to fund this project at this time, so I'm not going to get into it again here, but let's see what that $200-$300 million would buy ($400-$500 million if you include what the Ricketts will chip in).
Chad Yoder at the Tribune put together a nice summation that I'll break down a bit. First let's look at the pretty pictures:
|The grand plan. Notice lack of room for another noodle.|
I'm not a landmark expert, but considering the trouble they had putting in a damn sign, it will be all kinds of fun changing the facade of almost half of the existing ballpark. So, even if they get funding, this is still nowhere close to happening.
Cubs Alley commemorating the 1942 and 1949 seasons when they finished a combined 50 games under .500
Notice the sign above the Concourse that talks about the playoffs beginning.
This must represent the future MLB when every team makes the playoffs.
Yoder also breaks down the components of the plan:
Triangle building development
The triangle parcel would be developed to include retail, concessions, parking, outdoor dining and team offices. A hotel and Cubs museum are also being considered. The corner of Addison and Sheffield would be slated for expansion, possibly including the Captain Morgan Club.
I'm going to start referring to it as the Bermuda Triangle Building since that is where our money will be disappearing. We don't see much in the renderings about the Bermuda Triangle because they haven't fully figured out what amenities would separate us from our money most efficiently. The nice thing is that a trophy case won't take up very much room at all.
The Cubs are talking about how much all of this will help increase the revenues of the neighborhood, but since the seating capacity of Wrigley isn't going to increase in this overhaul, there won't actually be any additional fans in the neighborhood spending money. The Cubs are actually building competition for Sluggers, Casey Moran's, Bernie's, etc. and selling it as something that will be beneficial to those places.
There is a finite number of people that come in to the neighborhood on game days and they all have places they like to be, and when those fill up, they go to Yak-zies. If everyone is flocking to the Bermuda Triangle as much as the Rickettseses are claiming they will, it won't just be Yak-zies that can feature easy seating.
Between the triangle lot and ballpark would be a pedestrian walkway including shops, restaurants and a Cubs merchandise store under a retractable roof. No tickets would be required and no cars would be allowed.
I like that they are calling it an alley because people get robbed in alleys all the time and after a stroll through Cubs Alley, you'll probably feel like you had your pockets picked. Still, the picture looks nice and it is a bit of an homage to the Red Sox closing down Yawkey Way on game days. A nice gesture would be to allow homeless people to sleep there since there will probably be a few state employees added to their ranks by the time this thing is completed.
Expanded home and visitors clubhouses would be built under left and right field. The team will soon start testing how deep it can dig. Plans include new batting cages, weight rooms and an expanded training room.
So, the Cubs have this grand plan, they are already asking for money from the state to help fund it, and they don't know if the plan is even plausible? What if they can't dig very deep? Then what? A whole team of Sam Fulds? Also, how about saving a bit of money and just slapping some new paint on the visitor's side and call it rehabbed. Why do they have to get such a nice expanded space?
Ramps inside Wrigley would be removed to make a more spacious concourse, including new floors, ceiling and lighting. Above the concourse, facing Clark and Addison streets, outdoor rooftop patios with concessions would be added.
Now that I think about it, the ramps do take up a good amount of space within the ballpark. They really could open it up by getting rid of them. But have you already gotten to where I'm going with this? How do we get to our seats from the nice expanded concourse that has no ramps? At some point, a few thousand people will escape from the Bermuda Triangle, Cubs Alley and the wide open spaces of the concourse and will attempt to watch the game (especially considering the Upper Deck seats will probably break the three digit mark in price by then). How are they getting up there?
All in all, the pictures look really nice and I'm sure the actual result would be significantly better than what Wrigley currently offers. But at a cost of up to $500 million to make the renovations, Wrigley will officially become a money pit.
All of the renovations that they are talking about are basically changes to the structure of the park. I remember when I was in college the Tribune ran a story about testing that had been done on the foundations and key structural areas of Wrigley and found that the core of the park's structural integrity was good for another 50 years or so. Well, that was 20 years ago and we've already seen concrete falling from the superstructure of the upper deck. This plan doesn't mention anything about that.
This plan also doesn't address the cramped situations in the seats or the fact that a good number of the seats out in the corners aren't angled towards homeplate. Believe me, if ticket prices get boosted the way the Ricketts are planning, people are going to want to watch the game without getting a strained neck. So then what? More renovations? More borrowed money? How many more hundreds of millions?
If Wikipedia can be believed, there is a proposal for a new Marlins stadium that will cost $515 million. A proposed new stadium for the A's would cost $400 million. I found a story from 2007 that put the estimate for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark at $450 million.
The Cubs are looking to spend about those amounts of money just to boost the parts of the ballpark that don't involve watching the games. Probably because they know the games won't be worth watching for awhile.