Day Two of the 2014 Cubs Convention: Ricketts Family Forum

Saturday at the Cubs Convention is filled with autograph sessions and of course wall-to-wall information. That is if one takes the time to listen. The second day of the convention is one informative session after the other where the fans can ask questions to the owners, front office and coaching staff.

The second day of the Cubs Convention kicked off early Saturday morning with The Ricketts Family Forum. Tom, Laura and Todd fielded questions from the fan base during the morning and provided updates on the Wrigley Field Restoration project, and the teams television and radio contracts.

The Ricketts Family Forum

After a brief delay Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts began the session. Pete was not able to attend the convention. He is running for Governor of Nebraska.

Tom Ricketts provided another State of the Cubs and reiterated some of the same information from Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies. Tom is fully aware the results on the field were not good last year but believes 2013 was the turning point for the organization.

Ricketts stressed the same three points as Friday … Improved facilities, coaches and player development and the addition of great players to the system.

Tom discussed the Cubs’ new facilities in the Dominican Republic and in Mesa. Tom pointed out the importance international players are in baseball with 20 percent of the players in the majors coming from the Dominican.

The new facility in Mesa will have the “best fan experience in Spring Training.” Tom really likes the Cubs new facility and while he loved HoHoKam, the facilities were outdated. The Cubs now have the best place in the majors for players to train in the off-season and to rehab during the season. Ricketts feels the Cubs “had the worst facilities and now have the best.” Tom made a point of the fact all of the players in the organization will be on the same property now, both minor leaguers and players on their Major League roster.

The Cubs’ chairman feels the organization has the right staff in place to help develop the players. Rick Renteria, or Ricky as Tom Ricketts referred to him again, is the right man to help develop the talent on the Major League team and will help with the transition of the players coming through the system as they reach the big leagues.

In order to build a successful organization, first the team must have the best players. Then the job is to develop the players so they have a chance to reach their full potential (be all they can be).

Ricketts let everyone know that Jason McLeod has posted a big blue ‘W’ in all of the minor league parks and facilities throughout the Cubs system … with the tagline “When It Happens. Where are you going to be when it happens?”

Tom Ricketts explained how the Cubs were consistently in the bottom four in spending in the draft. He reiterated the key to winning at the big league level is to have the best players in the system. “We are building an organization that can win with more depth and more talent than ever before,” Ricketts said. The young players are coming and coming soon. The Cubs will hopefully be supplanting the big league team this year with talent from the minors.

Wrigley Field

The Cubs still have details to work out in their negotiations with the rooftop club owners before the restoration project can begin. Tom Ricketts did say he thinks the team has figured out a way to speed up the project. The original plan called for the Cubs to Restore Wrigley Field over five off-seasons. Ricketts said Saturday they have found a way to make it a four-year off-season project.

When asked about the rooftops, Ricketts compared the revenue the team is losing to a neighbor that watches television through your living room window and is charging the other neighbors to watch.

Tom Ricketts was asked about the article Jeff Passan posted earlier in the week that questioned why the Cubs were not spending like a big market team. Ricketts used the question as an opportunity to address the team’s debt. The debt is a big piece of the Cubs’ finances but not as big as some may think. The Cubs pay the highest taxes in baseball. The team is also not able to capitalize on the revenue being lost to the rooftops, old television and radio contracts. Ricketts assured every one the baseball budget will expand when it is appropriate. The problem is not the money, according to Ricketts, there is not enough talent in the system to win.

Questions about the restoration project came up later in the session. Tom Ricketts added they are “trying figure things out” and they need to resolve the issues. Laura said the talks with the rooftops are progressing.

The rooftops all have different agendas and it makes it impossible to buy them all out and/or buyout the last nine years of the contract. Tom Ricketts said, “It’s not like you can just write a check.”

Tom and Laura Ricketts stated the Cubs and the rooftop club owners are getting close to a settlement.

WGN TV

The Cubs are hopeful something can be worked out to keep the games on WGN. Ricketts said the deal with WGN ends after this season. Ricketts said the team has “had a great relationship” with WGN and would like to keep them as a partner long term.

The games currently on Comcast SportsNet will remain through the 2019 season. Tom does not have an answer on where the other games will be seen after the 2014 season at this point.

Ticket Prices

Tom Ricketts was asked how he could justify the high ticket prices with the product he is putting out on the field. Ricketts explained there is “no way to cheat the devil.” The Cubs have to build the organization the way they feel it should be built. Ricketts added everyone is going through this together and admitted it is tough to lose. He pointed out they are trying to make the ball park experience the best they can so people can get the best value for their tickets. Ricketts reiterated they will be bringing up young players this season and that will hopefully help the big league team.

Laura Ricketts added, “We feel your pain. It is our pain too.”

Clark the Cub

As would be expected, the Cubs’ new mascot was a big topic of conversation. Laura Ricketts addressed the first round of questions about Clark.

Clark received some bad press this week. But the kids loved him immediately and that is who he is for, the kids. The Cubs plan to make Wrigley more family friendly and he is part of their plans.

Up NextMeet Cubs Baseball Management with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman.

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2014 Cubs Convention Reports

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  • CubbyDenCritic

    A month ago I reported that Bankers on LaSalle St are saying that the Cubs owners have money problems……..today, we hear Ricketts complaining about costs & taxes…….if you are multi millionaire and own a MLB team, and worry about taxes, putting a low cost product on the field, and have to raise ticket prices, Red Flags should be going up in ALL Cubs fans heads……lets not forget the event of long drawn out lawsuits that the Roof Top owners will begin….Yes, the Lawsuits against the Cubs will happen…..legal costs for the Cubs & the Ricketts will be in the tens of millions……and the Cubs might lose in court………….right now, no local tv network will give more money then what WGN is giving to the Cubs…..tv sales people cannot sell tv ad time when the team just SUCKS…….right now, NFL took over as America’s favorite past time…..kids are not into baseball…….Steroids era and the cost to buy a glove, a ball, a bat, shoes adds up……low sports cost like football, soccer & basketball for kids have taken over the youth leagues…….another point, American Africans are not into playing baseball…..MLB knows the concerns of less black athletes in the game……if you have three groups of kids….one Black, one Hispanic ,and one White…..the majority of the Black kids will say they want to play football and basketball for fun……HIspanics will say Soccer……White Kids, most will pick an Xbox game rather then run around on a field in any sport………our society has changed of they way they look at sports………both in interests and in costs………….right now, I have no doubt the Ricketts will look for a Buyer if this team does not get it turned around in the next few seasons………..Wrigley renovation work, new spring training site and a new tv contract with new owner input will make this team more interesting to any new Buyer, even if this Cubs team is not in the playoffs by then…….Ricketts can more then double his profit if the Cubs won a World Series by 2019,…to any businessman, you got a winner, now its time to make a profit……..this is how the Big Boys on Wall St and from Nebraska think.

  • GaryLeeT

    “The Cubs pay the highest taxes in baseball. ”
    I really, really want to make a comment about Chicago, and Illinos politics.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Its called “greed”

  • Dorasaga

    Another pointless hard-sale from the Ricketts family. The good side from this forum is that they at least admit that much still needs be done, especially the deal with or against adamant rooftops.

    Again, I’ll say this throughout a historical event such as the Cubs Convention: Without Phil Cavarretta, nothing is proper. Legends are tainted. History is distorted. The club is spoiled. Its owner is dumbfound.

    http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2014/01/time-29th-annual-cubs-convention.php#comment-1206543709

    • GaryLeeT

      I was thinking about what the Cubs could do about the roof top owners. First off, how TR could still be employing the very person who did the deal with them, is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, if it were me, I guess I would do what was in the best interest of the team, and deal with the suits as they came. I would hope the losses from the suits would equal an amount to what a settlement would have been. The only wild card to that plan, is if some activist judge slapped an injunction on the new construction.

      • SuzyS

        I think that’s the point. Any lawsuits would carry the possibility of tying up the actual construction for years.

        • GaryLeeT

          Well, they can’t wait until the contract expires, so something has to give.

          • Tony_Hall

            Ricketts threw a jab yesterday about the long term of the rooftops. Every business wants to keep making money, but TR

            “Ricketts compared the revenue the team is losing to a neighbor that watches television through your living room window and is charging the other neighbors to watch.”

            TR then made a point of saying they only have to deal with the rooftops until 2023.

            With these 2 statements, TR is telling the rooftops, that enjoy it while it lasts as the ones that make this the most difficult will no longer be able to fight it once the contract runs out and that new signage or even bigger scoreboards could block their views even more.

          • GaryLeeT

            Yep, that’s exactly how I read that too. I have never sat in one of those rooftop bleachers, but a substantial portion of the outfield has to be blocked from their view, right?

          • Tony_Hall

            I have never been to one. My brother went to one and said baseball was very secondary to the group that was there. It was like a corporate gathering at a sports bar that had a really cool TV in front of them with the Cubs game on.

        • paulcatanese

          Afraid so Suzy.

      • Dorasaga

        I actually LOL when you implied Kenney. LOL.

        The devil must be in the details. The opt-out from the rooftop contract … isn’t it a collective bargain?

    • paulcatanese

      Well said.