In the 2000s, the Chicago Cubs and the owners of the rooftops surrounding Wrigley Field had quite a tiff going on. The Cubs put up fences in the bleachers blocking the view of the Wrigleyville rooftops, so the rooftop owners built their seats higher above it. Then the ballclub put up another screen blocking the view, claiming it was for “post 9/11 security screens.” After years of squabbling they settled on the small business owners giving them 17%.
You can see how both sides have a point- the local businesses help build the Wrigleyville neighborhood up from dangerous ghetto on the outskirts to trendy, adult playground. The Cubs have a point in that someone else is directly profiting off their product. Well the years of detente are over and it looks like there’s going to be another battle over revenue between the two interests.
Like Fenway Park in Boston, the amount of advertising space in Wrigley is very limited. And you saw how the Boston Red Sox sold all that out. The Ricketts family is trying to do the same, but they are held back by the landmark restrictions the city has on the ballpark. This is all about making money for them, despite the cliche PR sounding quotes you hear. (all quotes in this post from this Chicago Tribune piece)
“The Ricketts family and the Chicago Cubs want the right to run their business so they can continue to be good stewards of Wrigley Field and in doing so save the beloved ballpark for future generations,” said Ricketts family spokesperson Dennis Culloton.
Of course, here’s a quote from Culloton which tells it like it is, about how putting up ads within the ballpark on the bleachers makes more money for the team (think the Toyota sign in left field) than ads on the roofs across the way.
“Inside the ballpark is going to be infinitely more valuable than advertising outside the ballpark,” Culloton said.
And that’s why the roofop owners are concerned; they think that new ads are on the way and they’ll be shut out.
“We believe this is common sense plan is a win-win for the community, rooftops, City Hall and the Cubs,” said Beth Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Rooftop.
The rooftop owners are projecting $185 million to the local economy in the next 20 years, $70 million of which would be given to the Cubs. A sign detailing their estimates ended with the words, “Destroying one business to benefit another is not the answer.”
So how will this all be resolved? This is a business, sports and government issue, as city hall will have a major role in settling this dispute which is sure to flare up. There are three major parties involved here, all of them seeking to maximize their profits.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now,, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.