The second day of the Cubs Convention is typically filled with as much information as one can process and this year there seemed to be even more.
With the baseball side of the organization moving in the right direction, the next obstacle facing the Ricketts family and the Chicago Cubs is the restoration of Wrigley Field. A majority of the second day of the convention focused on the plans the family and the team has for the old ballyard, and to say they are impressive would be an understatement.
There was plenty of discussion about the baseball side that included excellent sessions with the baseball management team, several of the prospects down on the farm and Dale Sveum and his coaching staff.
The second day of the 2013 Cubs Convention began with the Ricketts family forum.
The Ricketts Family Forum
Tom Ricketts addressed the large crowd after Len Kasper introduced the entire family. Tom is happy to see the convention in a new venue and likes what he called “the convention’s new format.” The Cubs wanted to change things up a little from the conventions in recent years and used the new venue as a reason to do so.
Tom Ricketts was extremely blunt throughout the entire session, much different from the previous two conventions. He likes the direction the baseball side of the organization is going and firmly stated, “That if everyone in this room could see the hundreds of smart things going on behind the scenes, you would be happy too.”
The session quickly shifted to the restoration of Wrigley Field and Ricketts stressed that their goal is to retain the character of Wrigley Field while making improvements at the same time. The restoration of Wrigley will be a big issue throughout 2013.
The team is in constant contact with the Mayor’s office and is trying to work with the city on making improvements to Wrigley. Ricketts pointed out that while the people on the stage (Tom, Laura, Todd and Pete) are responsible for the ballpark they are really hamstrung with all of the restrictions put on what they can and cannot do to the park. Ricketts explained, “We’re not a museum, we’re a business.” And if the city will let them run their business that they will be able to. The Cubs are working with the city in order to find compromises that will allow them to preserve Wrigley Field for the next 50 years.
The family was asked about the team’s broadcast rights and Ricketts was quick to point out that the Cubs pay the second highest taxes in the game but receive not public funding. What is happening with the TV rights is it is allowing teams to spend money on the organization. Ricketts was quick to point out that they have great broadcast partners but a new TV deal would not be happening soon.
The family was asked why the Cubs do not recognize the history of the team prior to the 60s more and why they did not recognized the passing of Phil Cavarretta. Tom admitted they should do more and pointed out that they try to recognize and respect the former Cubs that are still living. The family seemed open to including more of the organization’s storied history and to the Cubs credit the early years of the franchise have been more visible at this year’s convention.
The focus shifted back to the restoration of Wrigley Field and the Cubs are trying to find other options, outside of the amusement tax dollars that would have only come from Cubs’ ticket purchases.
Tom Ricketts views last year as being the first year of the organization’s building process. He stressed that it important to think long term when building an organization.
The Ricketts family certainly watched what the Red Sox were doing when they took over the team do to all of the similarities and as Tom pointed out, he has hired a lot of the people that were working there while Fenway Park was being restored. There is quite a bit in common with where the Red Sox were and the Cubs are right now … except the Red Sox did not have the restrictions that the Cubs do.
Tom Ricketts was asked about the possibility of the Cubs welcoming Sammy Sosa back to the organization. Tom explained that is an awkward situation right now but he is hopeful that over time the team will be able to welcome Sammy Sosa back.
The Cubs entered into a partnership with Starwood Hotels that was announced on Thursday and while the family is not sure at this time what the new hotel by Wrigley Field will be called, Ricketts confirmed it will be a boutique style hotel with around 175-ish rooms and that it will not be overwhelming in size. The hope is that fans coming in from out of state to attend a Cubs’ game will stay at the hotel.
When asked about the future of the team and a possible timeframe for contending, Laura Ricketts said there is a sense in the office that it is not a matter of if, but when it will happen.
Tom Ricketts really believes he has hired the smartest guys in baseball to run the team but building a championship team takes time.
Recaps from the Meet the Cubs Baseball Management, From Draft Day to the Big Leagues, Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff and Wrigley Field Restoration sessions will be posted soon.