Cub Convention Report - Day 3

I work on Sunday mornings, and by the time I finish work, the key Sunday convention session -- the "Meet Cubs Business Management" conclave -- is over, scheduled each year at 9 am on the convention's last day. Thus, I dispatched Mike to attend, and he filed this report, which is both informative and entertaining:

Participating in this session were Mark McGuire, VP of Business Operations, John McDonough, VP of Marketing and Broadcasting, and Frank Maloney, Director of Ticket Operations. This has traditionally been a "morning of the long knives", so to speak, and is often the most contentious session of the weekend. It was, this year, less raucous than it has been recently, probably because so much of the new ticket policies and park expansions are faits accompli, and no longer under debate. The room was full.

The session began with a slide presentation -- a progress report on the bleacher expansion. Some tidbits handed out during the slideshow: forms are nearly all in place, new concrete is expected to be poured, left and right fields, by the third week of February. Existing restrooms will be "refreshed", new and larger restrooms and concessions will be added. The furthest RF corner will be wheelchair seating, there will be some "standing room" behind this section, none elsewhere; TV monitors will be liberally installed on the rear walkways. There was talk of making this an "entertainment venue" during off-days. Bleacher ticket holders will have full access to the rest of the park, but non-bleacher tickets will not be allowed bleacher access. Old bricks from the demolished walls will be reused, unusable bricks will be "marketed".

Some further individual questioning revealed the following. The non-alcohol "family" section formerly in the LF corner will be moved to a non-bleacher area. There will be a "bleacher box seat" section in the RF corner, consisting of individual seats, to be sold via on-line lottery, similar to the dugout and bullpen box seats. The rest of the bleachers will be benches. Best-case scenario for the "triangle building", the proposed multi-use facility west of the park, is to begin construction after the '06 season, with opening before '08.

The "batter's eye" restaurant is still a go, according to them; capacity of 75-100 was quoted. Also, more detailed renderings of this were presented than I had seen before. It has a terraced form, and it was hinted that those sitting in the lowest rows of the upper tier bleachers in CF may have obstructed views due to the positioning of the upper restaurant terrace.

Ticket issues were next. Season-seat holders are not being offered additional opportunities to buy. An on-line resale venue for season ticket owners, (the White Sox started one in 2005 and other teams including the Giants and Orioles have had one in past years), is to be established, prices set by the seller of the seats. Bleacher seats are not yet to be considered for this sales format, reason given that they prefer, for now, that only specific locations be offered, not general admissions.

Discussions of Wrigley Field Premium provided the loudest derision. "We hate all brokers equally", but don't want to be left out. "This is for all Cub fans who want to go to a game." Said WFP had sold 15,000 seats last year, "of course", a mere fraction of the three million total. The multitude was not converted.

Most of the rest was odd info as questions were answered. Friday 2:20 games were eliminated in trade for the extra night games. ML marketing encourages new and differing uniform designs. There will be price changes almost every year, not necessarily general hikes. The ad sign behind the plate is a modern revenue necessity, and will remain; it raised $5 million last year. Overall expansion costs were privately funded and totalled $13.5 million. There are no plans to expand or move the convention venue from the Hilton. Further, there are no plans to have Mark Grace attending anytime soon, a wish passionately expressed by one questioner.

There is, every year, one elderly fan who declaims that the Cubs are "abandoning their roots". This year, all the expansion and modernization talk had him worried that Cub fans were becoming "effete". One of the panel members had casually mentioned that the new "triangle", when built, would allow fans to "go for a Caesar salad between innings", thus setting off the old boy's ire. So, watch out, you've been warned. No, it was not Bob Feller.

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