Cubs Cause Stir With Big Announcements at Convention

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After a day dominated by headlines about Kerry Wood returning to the North Side, day two of the Cubs Convention in Chicago was marked by headlines in other areas. New changes to Wrigley Field were discussed, some free agency matters were addressed by the Cubs’ head honchos, and there was plenty of reaction both positive and negative to all of it.

The big announcement came at a panel about improvements that will be made to the ballpark, with a new patio section and 70-foot long LED screen that will be installed in right field. The section, which will feature a party deck, limited amount of seating, and will be sponsored by Budweiser, will be elevated more than the current bleachers are, and as you can see from the graphic provided, it will certainly be a way different look.

This announcement came with a huge amount of backlash from fans, who decried the organization’s abandonment of tradition and aesthetic beauty at the ballpark. One fan even went so far to say that if the team was going to “starting putting jumbotrons at Wrigley, just tear the damn thing down and build a new stadium.”

(Photo property of The Wrigley Blog)

To be honest, it will be very strange to see that part of the bleachers changed in such a big way, but there are plenty of reasons to give the organization the benefit of the doubt on this one. Not only will it be a money generator for the club (which Epstein and company likely will invest into other improvements in both the park itself and player development), but it likely will blend in better than it appears to in renderings. There was a similar amount of irritation when the team announced the new Batter’s Eye Lounge in center field, and that is barely noticeable from the grandstand.

Fans also should remember that Epstein oversaw a regime in Boston that installed all sorts of high tech upgrades at Fenway Park, and it’s been marveled at by baseball purists how much they simply blend in to the periphery. The new dugout seats and bullpen boxes at Wrigley were the same way, as were the LED screens that adorn both the first and third base facades of the upper deck. It is tough to make a final judgment on the area without seeing it in person, so fans should relax for a bit on this one.

In other improvements that didn’t quite cause the same uproar that the patio section did, the Cubs also announced that they will be adding improved Wi-Fi and cell phone service inside the ballpark, as well as security cameras throughout the stadium. These are creature comforts enjoyed at other places throughout baseball, and they’ll be unobtrusive and frankly an improvement over the poor service the stadium gets now.

One pricing change was also announced, as the Cubs will adopt “dynamic pricing” for their bleacher tickets. Essentially, the pricing system is modeled after buying airline tickets, in that the earlier you buy them, the cheaper they end up being. With bleacher tickets in high demand, the early tickets will be cheap, but the price will go up as fewer tickets become available. The exact scale hasn’t been decided on yet, but the team did say that the tickets will never be cheaper than they are for season ticket holders.

Besides all the changes that will be made to the ballpark itself, Cubs manager Dale Sveum also said that the team will not be pursuing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Despite rumors still be circulated, including ESPN’s Buster Olney saying that the Cubs were one of two teams “laying in the weeds” for Fielder’s price to come down, Sveum seemed adamant that the talk was meaningless, and that the team was going to move forward with Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo as its leading contenders to land the starting job at first.

Optimism for the future has been the theme of this Cubs Convention so far, but the changes announced today have put a bit of a damper on that for some fans. The Epstein Regime has made some major changes so far, and it’s clear that they want to continue that work moving forward in more areas than just the players they put on the field. Whether Cubs fans will continue being patient as these things keep happening around them remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: even on a weekend that’s all about hope, there’s still plenty who question whether things are going in the right direction.

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