Crane Kenney met with several members of the independent media Tuesday at the team’s offices.
The Cubs President of Business Operations provided detailed updates on The 1060 Project, the expansion and restoration of Wrigley Field. There have not been any delays on Phase Two, and that includes the Cubs new state-of-the-art clubhouse, which is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day 2016.
The Cubs are planning to launch their own network in 2020, possibly with a partner, and it would be a Cubs only channel without other teams’ programming.
“We want a great presentation of our games and a great presentation of our brand,” Kenney said. “And we want superior economics.”
Wrigley Field Restoration Project – The 1060 Project
The Cubs will finish the bleachers next year but the bullpen mounds will not be moved. The bullpen mounds will not be relocated until the 2017 season.
The bleachers are only 70 percent done. A lot of people think they are finished, Kenney explained, but that is not the case. The Cubs did not touch the upper deck last year with the exception of removing the LED board from underneath the historic scoreboard.
A larger patio will be built under the historic scoreboard, and is on schedule for next season. The planter boxes are returning and will have shrubbery but not trees in them. A new bar and restrooms are also planned for the area.
The commemorative brick pavers will be re-installed in the new location around the bleacher entrance.
Harry Caray’s statue will be back next season.
The Cubs new clubhouse will be ready by Opening Day 2016 as planned. There have not been any delays. As of Tuesday, the core of the clubhouse is finished. Crews were installing HVAC, all of the mechanicals, heating, air conditioning and plumbing. Drywall will be installed after the holiday [Thanksgiving].
Kenney explained the clubhouse will actually be done a couple of weeks before the end of Spring Training. Having it completed while the players are still in Arizona gives them a chance to test everything and make sure the clubhouse is fully functional by the time the players are ready to use it.
Only the home clubhouse will be completed by Opening Day. The visitor’s clubhouse will be restored, but will not be as elaborate as the Cubs’. Visiting teams, once their clubhouse is complete, will have their own strength and conditioning space. Teams currently walk across the field and share the Cubs’ weight room. Both teams will have batting tunnels when the visitor’s clubhouse is complete. The visitor’s clubhouse will be bigger than it currently is and remodeled, but not to the extent of the Cubs’ clubhouse.
The Cubs office tower (Triangle building) will be completed by the end of next year, after the baseball season. Construction will continue throughout the 2016 season. The Cubs will be announcing their partners for the first floor restaurants in the near future. The team does not control the leasing in the building. The building is leased and run by Hickory Street Development, which is owned by the Ricketts family and other investors. The Cubs assets end at the exterior walls of Wrigley Field, the building is a Hickory Street asset.
There will be some light entertainment in the first floor. Kenney said it would not be a concert venue. The Plaza itself is a concert venue. Within the first floor will be a showcase studio. There will be some space for all of the Cubs’ media partners to use. Kenney compared the way the area will be used to College Gameday on ESPN.
Comcast SportsNet, WGN, ABC and CBS Radio will have a booth for pre- and post-game shows. There will basically be a plug-and-play studio for them. And once the Cubs move to their own network in 2020 that will be its home.
Details are still being sorted out, but at least one of the additional outfield signs is scheduled to be installed by Opening Day 2016 and the new light towers are still in the plans.
There have not been any delays with the off-season construction. The Cubs really do not have any landmark issues or National Park Service issues or the water main problem that set the bleacher project back last year.
With most of the work underground, the weather will not affect the construction like it did last year.
The outside of Wrigley will look much different in 2016 than it has.
“All of the exterior, from basically the marquee, which is now being restored off-site, through the left field foul pole down,” Kenney explained. “The wrought iron is coming back. The terra cotta is coming back. The brick band is coming back. The chain link is gone. The poured concrete is going to be gone. So you’ll see kind of from the left field foul pole to the marquee gate what the building will look like when it’s finished.”
The Cubs are putting Wrigley Field back to the historical standards of the mid-1930’s.
Wrigley Field Security
Starting next season, the Cubs will have magnetometers at every entrance to Wrigley Field. The Cubs used wands this past season. Because Wrigley was under construction, the Cubs were given a waiver on the magnetometers and were allowed to use wands.
Staff will receive training on the use of the new security. The Western Gate will be finished during the season but will not open until the 2017 season.
The Cubs want to ensure nothing goes wrong in their building.
Left and Right Field Video Boards
The video boards in left and right field, or the Schwarboard as the one in right became known as, were a success during the first season. Crane Kenney started informally asking about video boards in 2004.
The Cubs continued gathering information from the fan base and had focus groups in order to gauge how the boards would be received.
Alison Miller is in charge of the content on the video boards. The Cubs treat those like any other television production. In order to get feedback on the content, fans are given surveys to find out which graphic packages and highlight reels they like and don’t like. The results from the surveys have been reviewed and the Cubs are modifying the content from what was used this past season.
The Cubs are having meetings called “Video Boards 2.0” which is focused on the content that will be shown during the second season of the video boards. The moto for the video boards is “Crawl. Walk. Run.” Last year the graphics were a “little light” according to Crane Kenney, and will “probably be a little stronger next year.”
Kenney stressed the Cubs would not be doing ‘Kiss Cams’ and “all of that other type stuff.”
The Cubs are planning more energy with the video board packages next season. The stats packages and video highlights will remain. The Cubs plan on adding more historical information and video. Some of the archival footage the Cubs have is not the best quality. The Cubs are trying to improve the quality of the video they have before playing it on the Wrigley boards. They have discussed going deeper into the team’s history, beyond the Sandberg Game and Kerry Wood’s 20 Strikeout Game. What the Cubs plan to do Kenney compared to playing the deep tracks on an album. In other words the team is looking to play more than just the hits, or Cubs Greatest Hits, on the video boards.
The Ricketts family continues to run the rooftop businesses in the same fashion in which they were run prior to purchasing the buildings. The Ricketts family owns six rooftop buildings and those six properties will be consolidated. Tickets to the six rooftops controlled by the family will sold under a common website.
The website is scheduled to debut next year.
A three-year deal was reached between Major League Baseball and FOX Sports that’s a two platform deal for in-market streaming. Because the Cubs are a Comcast market, along with 14 other teams including the White Sox, those markets are not included. Comcast is negotiating with the league and MLBAM for a service that would be effective for the 2016 season. There are three parties negotiating, the Cubs, Comcast and the league. The Cubs are hopeful they get resolution but “there are still some bumps in the road.”
Kenney said the Cubs goal is to get in-market streaming for next season. They are just not there yet.
“We see the streaming deal with FOX as progress,” Kenney said. “We don’t have a deal yet in Chicago. We know it’s important and want it for our fans and we hope to iron out the details moving forward both in the short term and long term.”