Guest Blogged by James Cook
With the Cubs up for sale and a final price that may go north of a billion dollars, it’s time to start talking about an aspect of this deal that has been largely ignored: What does the future hold for Wrigley Field? After all, isn’t it likely that a new owner who plops down a cool billion for the Cubs might expect to house his team in more expansive (and expensive) digs than the current 91-year-old park? At the very least, it’s reasonable to assume the new owner will be looking for some sort of upgrade. What form that will take will ultimately depend on how much change Cubs fans will accept and how much the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois are willing to shell out.
Here are the four options I see and my take on the chances of them playing out:
A New Wrigley Field
It’s hard to imagine Cubs baseball without Wrigley Field and it’s hard to imagine the powers that be will let it happen. But, if they can tear down the House that Ruth Built, who’s to say it won’t happen in Chicago? And, if that’s the price Cub fans have to pay for ending a century old World Series drought, I’m thinking most of them will be willing to say good-bye to the ivy-covered walls. Before you totally discount the idea, consider that the hundredth anniversary of Wrigley Field and the hoped-for Chicago Olympics are both scheduled for 2016. Might the Wrigley Centennial end up being a giant good-bye party with the Cubs moving to a (taxpayer-financed) Olympic field in 2017?
One more thing, if there is a new Wrigley Field, don’t count on it being named Wrigley. But I’ll get to naming rights later.
Chances for a new Wrigley: Remote
A second option is to gut Wrigley and build a brand new ballpark within the carcass of the old one. It’s a tactic Chicagoans are familiar with from the recent “renovation” of Soldier Field and one also used at Yankee Stadium in the seventies.
Would a “new” stadium that kept only the facade and ivy-covered walls of the old Wrigley Field still be Wrigley? Of course not! But, by offering a wink and a nod to the traditionalists, it just might fly.
On the negative side, it would probably require the Cubs and White Sox to share Comiskey – err, U.S. Cellular Field – for a year or two; surely one of the signs of the Apocalypse.
Chances for a rebuilt Wrigley: Even
If they can rename Comiskey, there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen at Wrigley. Illinois has over 30 companies in the Fortune 500, most of them near Chicago. I’m sure one of them would love to put their name on the facade. Boeing, which moved to Chicago in 2001 and is enjoying success with its new Dreamliner, seems a natural fit. With the wind blowing out, I can almost hear the announcers now, “It’s Boeing, Boeing, gone!” as the sound of Peter, Paul and Mary singing Leaving on a Jet Plane plays over the PA.
Chances for a renamed Wrigley: Almost certain
Of course it’s possible that the new owner will be a hard-core traditionalist who, after waving good-bye to his billion, will be content to sit in the bleachers and bask in the glow of Wrigley’s historic ambiance. It’s possible, but I don’t think Bob Costas has that kind of money.
Chances for no change: None, nada, zip!