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Construction continues at Wrigley Field as Chicago Cubs wonder where their die-hard fans have gone – Chicago Tribune

Living near Wrigleyville gives you the opportunity to see the daily action at the stadium during the offseason.

It’s been a quiet time at Wrigley Field in the past, with minor patches and few improvements to the seating areas or concourses. But since the turn of this century, it has been transformed into one construction project after another, changing the 108-year-old structure almost every year, for better or worse.

This winter, it’s the addition of the DraftKings sports book, a three-story, 22,000-foot building added to the right field corner.

It’s like a bus stop extension to the Picasso, but the changes have happened at Wrigley so quickly over the past decade that no one bats an eye. This is, of course, a Ricketts event and a smart business decision. Changing the iconic design of the football ground to generate another profitable revenue stream that should continue whether the team is competitive or not is a no-brainer for chairman Tom Ricketts, who repeatedly said that he “bought a private business, not a museum.”

Sports bookies in stadiums will soon become commonplace. Sports betting ads dominate broadcasts, and team announcers simply dispel the possibility that something will happen during games. If money is made in betting, sports leagues and owners obviously want their share.

“MLB fosters that relationship,” economist Andrew Zimbalist told Forbes in 2021. “When more people place bets, more people watch, and that increases television revenues.”

You can’t begrudge the Cubs wanting to get more people to watch — not to mention boost TV revenue — for a product that’s been subpar the past two years. After the lowest attendance in a non-pandemic season since 1997, when the Cubs started 0-14, the team recently announced it was cutting season ticket prices by an average of 5%.

“People have a lot of choice about their options and what they want to do with their lives.” Marquee 360 ​​senior vice president Kyle Vennum told the Tribune. “And a lot of them decided to come to Wrigley Field, but we saw that there was an opportunity to lower the prices next year.”

Naturally, whenever the Cubs see an “opportunity” to take less money from their customers, Ricketts is going to take advantage of it. With the second-highest average ticket price, an 88-loss team and plenty of empty seats in September certainly didn’t factor into the decision. They are just great hosts.

Watching the Cubs was once a habit for die-hard fans, even when the season was lost in mid-May. But the sell-out of star players, exorbitant ticket prices and distaste for the Ricketts family combined to cure some of their long-standing addiction.

That’s the price you pay when you run an organization that’s going through its second overhaul in a decade without a clear plan.

Meanwhile, the Tribune reported that the Marquee Sports Network’s audience has fallen 56% since its debut in 2020, which Crane Kenney, president of business operations, said said in part because of “headwinds” caused by the pandemic and cord-cutting.

“Our ratings have gone down with the team’s performance,” Kenny said. “We know they’ll come back up once the team starts competing a little bit more.”

That sound you hear is President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer being hit by a crane train.

Get to work Jed and get those marquee ratings back.

The marquee obviously can’t do anything about the product on the field, but the network is part of the problem of declining viewership. David Ross could be a good manager, but he has yet to prove it, despite the constant praise for his work on the net. After a pregame interview with general manager Carter Hawkins this summer, we were told the future of the Cubs was in great hands with Hawkins in the general manager’s chair.

That remains to be determined. Hawkins was an even more inconspicuous CEO than Hoyer was under former team president Theo Epstein, so it’s impossible to say how much decision-making authority he had.

Either way, constantly looking for the positives and detracting from the Cubs’ record, Marquee is basically a 24/7 advertisement for the owners. Maybe that was always the plan, but most Cubs fans I know prefer objective criticism when the product is ineffective, as the Cubs have been the last two seasons.

Contrast that with NBC Sports Chicago, where the broadcasters not only criticized the team’s play when it was deserved, but studio analyst Ozzie Guillen was often the White Sox’s most vocal critic.

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However, Kenny is right about the ratings. No matter how many local Emmys he has up against his office wall, the network won’t have true ratings success without a winning team.

As we’ve seen this postseason, spending money helps make the playoffs. But once you get in, an 87-win team like the Phillies has just as much of a chance as the team with the best record.

Hoyer has pledged to spend Ricketts money this offseason — using the qualifier “reasonable spending” to avoid any misconceptions about how far he’ll go.

The Phillies, who won Game 1 of the World Series on Friday in Houston, decided to sign Bryce Harper to a then-record 13-year, $330 million contract in 2019. He helped lead them to the World Series with a clutch, game-winning home run in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the San Diego Padres.

Would the Cubs make an even bigger financial commitment this offseason to a franchise-changing player like Aaron Judge? Or could this be an example of “unreasonable” spending? It’s Hoyer’s call to make that elusive ratings fix.

Meanwhile, the ivy rotation at Wrigley is leaving the field in the most beautiful conditionwith red, yellow, light green and purple ivy mixed with dark green leaves.

Cubs fans only see this look when the team plays in the playoffs in late October, like in 2003, ’15, ’16 and ’17. If you want to bet on that happening again in 2023, the Cubs can recommend a good place to put your money.


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