Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mr. Ricketts: Demand 55 night games at Wrigley

As the Ricketts family takes control of the Chicago Cubs, an ownership era comes to a close (1981-2009). A new one begins, and the owner has a large stack in his in-box already. Among the issues that confront him: what to do about that dump Wrigley Field.

A Sun-Times article said the new owner has a plan for a $250 million renovation for the main grandstand that would be complete in time for the renovated ballpark to host the 2012 All-Star Game. (I believe the next two are scheduled for Phoenix and Anaheim.)

My suggestion for the owner is to call a meeting with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th--the ballpark's ward) and Hizzonerdamare Richard M. Daley. As calmly as possible, Ricketts should explain to Ald. Tunney and Mayor Daley he will not put one dime into the ballpark unless the night game restrictions are lifted. There are two restrictions: the number of night games per season (30) and the days of week (Monday through Thursday only, with exceptions permitted for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball). I believe very strongly these restrictions wear the Cubs down in the heat of the summer and are actively keeping them from pursuing a world championship. I also believe very strongly a majority of Wrigley residents favor more night games. The neighbors who originally forced the restrictions on the Cubs when the Cubs installed Wrigley's lights in 1988 have had 22 seasons to make peace with night games. It's high time the Cubs' home schedule look like its rivals' home schedules.

I wouldn't object to a gradual lifting of the game limit, by five games per season. But the Friday/Saturday night ban must be lifted immediately, in time for the 2010 season. If the alderman and mayor refuse, that's fine. The Ricketts can afford to build a 21st-Century replica of Wrigley Field in the northwest suburbs. Then the mayor would need to figure out how to replace that missing geyser of tax revenue the Cubs produce: property taxes, entertainment taxes (tickets), excise taxes (beer, hard liquor), and sales taxes (tickets, concessions). There's even a parking tax when the Cubs operate their night-game parking lot at Lane Tech.

With its fantastic new scoreboard and new upper deck, Wrigley Field was state-of-the-art in 1938. Now it's an aging dump with abhorrent restrooms and substandard facilities and amenities. If the Ricketts can renovate the ballpark and make it look new, more power to them. If not, it's time to move on.

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