The fourth session attended during the second day of Cubs Convention was the Business Operations Update with Crane Kenney and his side of the Cubs front office.
The main focus of the session was on the Wrigley Field Restoration and Expansion Project and Crane Kenney confirmed the bleachers will not be completed by Opening Night, April 5 against the Cardinals.
“As a result our current target date for opening left field is early May and our target for opening right field is late May.”
Without any further delays, the left field bleachers will be open by May 11. The video board in left field is on schedule to be installed and operational by Opening Night and the video board in right field should be completed by late May when the right field bleachers open. The Cubs are installing a LED board in the left field bleachers to mirror the one in right field.
The work being done on the triangle property is laying the foundation for the new Cubs’ clubhouse that is set to be ready for Opening Day 2016. Carl Rice said that project is on schedule.
It was announced Saturday the Cubs have the largest season-ticket base in franchise history and possibly the largest base of season-ticket holders in all of baseball.
The Cubs set a Spring Training attendance record last year for both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League, and are on pace to break that record this spring.
And the Cubs’ plan to keep ‘Go Cubs Go’ as the team’s victory song.
The Cubs Business Operations Update session featured: Crane Kenney, President of Business Operations; Carl Rice, Vice President of Ballpark Operations; Alison Miller, Senior Director of Marketing; Colin Faulkner, Vice President of Sales and Corporate Partnerships; Jon Greifenkamp, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Allen Hermeling, Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships.
Crane Kenney led off the session by thanking everyone in attendance for their patience over the last three years and acknowledged that without the fans none of them would be there.
“We get to chase this dream of saving the ballpark and winning more ballgames because of the support you guys provided,” Kenney said. “And we don’t take that lightly.”
The current season ticket-holder base is the largest in Cubs history. There will be more season-ticket holders at Wrigley Field in 2015 than ever before. And the Cubs likely have the largest season-ticket holder base in all of baseball.
The Cubs set the all-time Spring Training attendance record last year for both the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League and the team is on pace to break that record this spring.
The Cubs have three goals: Win a World Series, Save Wrigley Field and Be a Good Neighbor. Kenney discussed what the organization accomplished in 2014, both on and off the field, and sees last year as the inflection point on the teams goals.
The Cubs finally broke ground in 2014 on the $575 million Wrigley Field Restoration and Expansion Project that will preserve the park and develop the neighborhood around Wrigley. Kenney thanked the Ricketts family, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the City of Chicago and Ald. Pat O’Connor for their support of the project.
The Cubs knew the Wrigley Field project would have its challenges, unlike the construction of the new facility in Mesa. The Cubs had a back-up plan in HoHoKam Park and Fitch Park, that could be used if construction in Mesa was not completed on time. The Cubs also had perfect weather and were not dealing with a 100-year old facility.
The Cubs spent a lot of time with the Milwaukee Brewers talking about playing home games at Miller Park a couple of years ago. There were discussions about at least one season, if not two, being played at Miller Park while Wrigley was under construction. That would have given the team and uninterrupted building schedule and would have allowed the entire project to be completed in a shorter timeframe.
The Cubs decided playing home games at Miller Park was not the best solution, especially with the team the front office was looking to field by the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Kenney explained they wanted the fans to be at Wrigley to watch the Cubs play, not in someone else’s park.
The Cubs have been preparing the park for all of the player and fan amenities that are coming. First was the concrete and steel work in the concourse on the third base side from Gate K to home plate. Next was the major work to the left and right field bleachers.
Kenney went through the plans for the six outfield signs that include the 4,000 square foot video board in left field and the smaller video board in right field. Kenney assured those in attendance the outfield signs would not take away from Wrigley but add to the ballpark experience.
“We are committed to preserving the beauty, charm and historic character of our wonderful ballpark the fans have cherished for more than a century while upgrading the overall game day experience,” Kenney said.
The Cubs welcomed several new Legacy Partners since last year’s convention that will help the team “win both on and off the field.” The Cubs signed corporate partnerships with Benjamin Moore Paints, Giordarno’s Pizzeria, Weber Grills and Jack Daniel’s and new legacy partnerships with ATI Physical Therapy, Wintrust and Sloan Valve Company. Kenney explained each of the team’s partners are committed to the long-term restoration of Wrigley Field and will be with the team for several years.
New media partners were added last year. The Cubs shifted the radio partnership to CBS Radio. The games will be broadcast on WBBM.
Kenney said CBS Radio believed most in the team’s vision for the Cubs when negotiations for the radio rights began, and that was before the additions the baseball side made to the roster this off-season. CBS Radio stepped up and the Cubs now have the third most lucrative radio deal in baseball.
“We believe really strongly in CBS because of their faith in us. They were rewarded right after the contract was announced by the moves that Theo [Epstein] made,” Kenney said. Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer will be in the radio booth during the upcoming season.
The Cubs also announced a new partnership with WLS-TV, ABC-7 in Chicago for 25 games from 2015-19. The team signed a new agreement with WGN-TV, Ch. 9 for the other 45 games. Under the new agreement with WGN, Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies became Cubs’ employees. With ABC and WGN, the Cubs feel they have the top two TV stations in Chicago carrying their games and “supporting their partners.”
The Cubs knew when the bleacher project began it would present its own challenges and it might be difficult to have the first phase complete by April 5, Opening Night.
The Cubs have made significant progress but the bleachers will not be ready for the first game of the 2015 season.
“Our goal is to get this project done right. So we are not going to sacrifice quality for the sake of timing,” Kenney said. “The ballpark means a lot to us as it does to you. We are going to get this thing done right and we promise to deliver on all of the things that you’ve seen in prior conventions to this one.”
“As a result our current target date for opening left field is early May and our target for opening right field is late May.”
Carl Rice led off his part of the session by stating he cannot believe how much is left to be done on Wrigley over the next 10 weeks before Opening Night and over the next four years.
The 26-week timeline during the winter months in Chicago is not the best time to be working on Wrigley. The Cubs have had a lot of variables thrown at them and each one has to be adjusted to as it happens. The work on the left field concourse was a new experience for everyone involved, including the construction company. The Cubs are trying to take a 1914 structure and adapt it to current construction terms. And it’s been an adjustment for all of those involved.
There are three major projects going on at Wrigley Field: the bleachers, the left field concourse and the area outside of the park that was formally known as the red and purple lot where the triangle property is being developed.
During the 2014 season, the Cubs paved and finished the Green Lot on Grace Street and that was the very first thing the team had to accomplish in order to make the project move forward. Carl Rice explained enhancing the footings to the major column lines supporting the upper deck is critical to the project. Those all have to be finished by Opening Night and everything is on schedule to have those completed by the first game.
The work on the triangle property is laying the foundation for the new Cubs’ clubhouse that is set to be ready for Opening Day 2016. Rice said that project is on schedule and work will continue on the triangle property throughout the season.
Work in the concourse will also continue throughout the season and some of the new amenities will take shape. The Cubs are re-designing the left field ramping system and it will be in place by Opening Night 2015. Construction of the western gate will continue to take shape as well. Some of the new areas will not be completed by Opening Night and various areas will be under temporary construction or may be closed.
Rice asked for everyone to be patient with the team during the construction and said there will be signs posted in the areas and throughout the ballpark. Those areas will be “Under Cubstruction.”
The Wi-Fi service at Wrigley Field could have an “Under Cubstruction” sign on it all season. AT & T provided Wrigley’s Wi-Fi service and the signal was sent through the locator in the right field bleachers. Due to the issues with the right field bleachers, the Cubs may not be able to get the Wi-Fi service back online by the start of the season.
The Cubs and AT & T are working to find a solution for this season, but at this time they are having challenges with finding a comprehensive solution for the entire park.
The left field video board will be installed and operational by Opening Night. The video board in right field will not be installed and operational until late-May.
Colin Faulkner was next up and he discussed the contingency plan for the season ticket holders in the bleachers.
The Cubs sent out the contingency plan to season ticket holders, via email, during the session for games prior to May 11. The email contained three options and a contact to the team to answer any questions. For bleacher season ticket holders for games prior to May 11 the three options are: 1) A full refund on all games prior to May 11 2) A credit on the account on games prior to May 11 that can be used to purchase any games on the schedule in any available area of the ballpark prior to tickets going on sale to the general public 3) Relocation of seats for all games prior to May 11. Season ticket holders will receive a refund or a credit on the difference should they choose less-expensive seats or will be responsible for paying the difference if they choose more expensive seats.
Season ticket holders have until Jan. 29 to communicate with the Cubs and let them know which option they select. If the team does not hear from the season ticket holder, a credit will be placed on the account for games prior to May 11.
Allen Hermeling said later in the session the Cubs are the only team in Major League Baseball with team-wide access to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. An overwhelming majority of the players participated and the partnership will continue.
The Cubs recently signed its sixth Legacy Partner, Sloan Valve Company, and Hermeling expects the momentum to continue with more announcements in the near future.
With help from Legacy Partner, ATI Fitness, the Cubs will make a yearly mission trip to the Dominican Republic to provide medical services to those in the area of the team’s facility.
This season the Cubs will have six-themed Friday afternoon games in the Budweiser Bleachers that will include exclusive promotional offerings.
The Cubs goal with the video boards is to add to the Wrigley Field experience not to detract from it. And the video boards will provide statistics and replays done in a tasteful manner.
The historic center field scoreboard is not being removed or replaced and will still be where fans in the park look for the score, balls and strikes and all of the out of town scores. The Cubs have already removed the LED board from underneath the center field scoreboard. The LED board was added years later after the original construction. The scoreboard is now closer to the way it looked when it was first built in the late 1930’s.
The Cubs conducted a fan survey to find out what information to include on the video boards. The top five answers: Video replays, game statistics, history, behind the scenes information on the players and scores and highlights from around the league. Alison Miller guaranteed those five things will be included on the new video boards.
The samples shown during the session included stats such as WHIP, FIP and OPS and stats will update during the player’s at bat. The board in right field will show how to keep score in the middle section. The graphics were well done, classic baseball graphics with a Wrigley Field color scheme and complimentary colors.
On the statues and brick pavers, Harry Caray’s statue will be returned once the bleachers are completed at some point during the 2015 season. The Cubs are trying to find a new temporary home for the Ernie Banks’ statue while work continues in the area the statue was installed.
The Cubs are going to replace all of the brick pavers, buy brand new ones and relocate them to outside of the bleachers. Fans that purchased a brick paver will receive a letter from guest services when that project begins.
The Cubs home television territory/area runs through Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and parts of southern Wisconsin. Fans in those areas cannot watch Cubs games online or on the Extra Innings Package, they are blacked out. The Cubs goal is to syndicate the game carried on WGN-TV (CW) and WLS-Ch. 7 (ABC) into those areas throughout the region. The Cubs are having conversations with the local ABC affiliates and the local CW affiliates. Crane Kenney said if an agreement cannot be reached with the local carriers to bring the games into those markets the Cubs will talk to Major League Baseball about lifting the blackout for the Extra Innings package in those markets. That’s the only thing the Cubs can do at this point. Kenney said it is a big issue for the team and they realize they have a lot of fans inside the territory/area that relied on WGN America for games. “We are working very hard on this project,” Kenney said.
The green video screen behind home plate will be split in two this season. There will be one on the right side and one on the left side in 2015 and beyond. Crane Kenney pointed out how lucrative those boards are for the team.
The session with Crane Kenney and the business side of the team was very informative with few questions from the fan base and more prepared information from the front office. Even with the delay in the first phase of the Wrigley Field project, the team is focused on preserving Wrigley Field for future generations.
“We know how important it is to get this right. Wrigley Field is the best place in the world to watch a baseball game and we have a responsibility to keep it that way. It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly and it’s one we think about every day.”
2015 Cubs Convention
- Day One of the 2015 Cubs Convention: Let’s Go! The Excitement and Optimism is Back
- Day Two of the 2015 Cubs Convention: Ricketts Family Forum
- Day Two of the 2015 Cubs Convention: Baseball Operations with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer
- Day Two of the 2015 Cubs Convention: Meet Joe Maddon
- Day Three of the 2015 Cubs Convention: Jason McLeod, Jaron Madison and Four Cubs Prospects from the Farm