BCB Interview: Crane Kenney

Crane Kenney

Last Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to be invited into the office of Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney. Over the course of an hour he granted me a wide-ranging interview covering subjects from naming rights to the team sale to possible changes in the ballpark.

I think many of you have an image of Kenney, who is 45, as a "stuffed shirt", just another Tribune Company suit. I didn't find him that way at all -- he grew up in Boston as a Red Sox fan, and so suffered through failures just as we have. He's seen the successes of the Red Sox and how they've been built and wants the Cubs to emulate that. He wants the Cubs to win as badly as any of us do.

Thanks to Crane for his time and his candid answers to my questions. We began by discussing what was then the upcoming Sports Illustrated cover story on Kosuke Fukudome.

CK: You’re about to see a Sports Illustrated story about him...

BCB: I saw the cover...

CK: We used to have Paul Weaver kind of as a part time scout in Asia, now you’ve got Weaver, you’ve got Steve Wilson, you’ve got two other full time scouts.

BCB: Steve Wilson apparently did a really good job, especially on the Fukudome signing.

CK: Yeah, and Paul Weaver was critical there. But investing money in places like Asia where you now have Taiwan and Korea and Japan. This is a developing area where you’re gonna see great talent coming out of. We want to have the resources there to make sure we’re on the spot when it comes to finding that talent.

BCB: I know that the Cubs have the second smallest baseball staff in the major leagues. Is there any talk about increasing it? You need more office space is what you’re saying, to have a bigger staff.

CK: Some of it is office space but some of it is just putting more money into those places. And you’ll see, we’ve added, in our scouting and player development area we’ve added a ton in the last three years. And we’re no longer in the bottom half of baseball.

BCB: That’s good because I think that’s critical, scouting is so critical not just in the Far East but amateur scouting, advance scouting, everything.

CK: We’ve given Jim more resources to spend money there. We’ve obviously put a lot on the payroll lately. And we are a market of size. We can’t support those kinds of resources both for Jim on the payroll and on the player development side and to improve the fan amenities. It’s going to take some doing, but obviously last year was the first step. We have the right manager. Jim’s doing I think a terrific job on the player side. And we added to our staff on the business side. There are enormous opportunities still here for us.

BCB: Well, let’s talk a little bit about that because I know one of the things some of the people who read BCB are really up in arms about is the whole controversy about naming rights and how Wrigley Field is tradition and the name Wrigley Field has been there for so many years and they don’t want to see it change. What can you tell people about what’s going on, what you’re planning, what you’re thinking in terms of raising money.

CK: This came up at the Cubs Convention, which I think you were there for part of it. And there was a question raised and what I said then is what I’d say today. So we have three priorities. The first priority is to win a championship and it started when we asked John McDonough to take over the president’s job to articulate with no equivocation or disclaimers or excuses that our only goal is to win the championship. And the only measuring stick for success for us will be did we win the World Series or not. Not how we did on the P&L. Not how we did with ticket sales. Not how we did within the Division. So really beginning with John and continuing now we’re only measuring our success one way. So, that’s the first priority.

Second priority is we enjoy this ball field. We think it’s a great facility. We want to keep playing here. We want to win that championship here, on the corner of Clark and Addison.

Our third priority is we’d love the name to remain Wrigley Field. And what I said at the convention was: if changing number three lets me accomplish goals number one and number two I have to think about it. We as an organization need to think about it.

Naming rights, as we know, are extraordinary valuable, something no one considered back when the club was bought from the Wrigley Company. And no one paid attention to the naming rights, to be honest with you. We have a royalty free right to use the name. Meaning, when we took the name as part of the transaction it was unclear whether we should pay Wrigley to have the name or they should pay us. That shows you how little people were thinking about naming rights. So no one pays anyone anything. They can’t stop us from using the name, and we’ve had a great relationship with the Wrigley Company, they’ve never asked us to stop and similarly we can’t tell them we’re going to use it forever and you have to pay us something. So it’s this unusual arrangement where no one pays anyone and the rights are completely open.

BCB: Does the upcoming sale of the Wrigley Company change any of this?

CK: It doesn’t change the fact that we have a right to use the name Wrigley. So, the fact is, and if you look at the two most recent deals done in New York, Barclays for the new Nets arena and Citi for the new Mets stadium – you know $20 million a year for 20 years, it’s $400 million. $400 million could go into stadium renovation. $400 million could go into player payrolls, scouting, everything we’ve been talking about.

So, I said we have to look at it. Of course, that set off a lot of concerns. The fact is we did a naming rights deal this year, right? The CBOE seats were our first seating bowl naming rights transaction ever. It was also our first ticket auction ever. And it’s a lucrative transaction for us. Multi year, seven figures and really I don’t think people are that concerned about the CBOE naming rights.

We did a naming rights deal two years ago with the Bud Light Bleachers. You’re seeing that around the league. Boston just did a deal with Coca-Cola in the upper deck. Now you’re also seeing entire buildings switch their name like in Cleveland where the Jake is now called Progressive Field.

So, there’s a menu of ways to do naming rights. People leap to the conclusion when I talk naming rights that we’re going to take Wrigley off the building because that’s catastrophic and Cub fans like to think of things in catastrophic terms. We’re looking at things. We’ve done the CBOE deal. We did the Bud Light Bleachers. We’re going to look at some other things.

Again, in my three priorities we’re obligated to consider everything and we’re considering other things like that.

BCB: Would you tend to lean more toward the naming of different places in the ballpark?

CK: I’d love to keep the name Wrigley. Listen, I’m a traditionalist, I’m a historian. I don’t want to take the name off the building. But it’s a little bit like what Jim Hendry said to Mark DeRosa when we were looking at Brian Roberts. Jim told Mark, the day I’m not trying to improve the club and putting one player’s preferences above the rest of the organization I should lose my job. So I would say the same thing about naming rights, the day I’m more concerned about certain aspects of our tradition than winning I should lose my job. Now fans have a different reaction to that. That’s a controversial statement for some people. I have actually had people come up to me and say: "I would rather lose and keep the name Wrigley Field than win a World Series and have the name come off the building." And that’s a perspective that people have and I respect it. It’s not the one I have.

BCB: I personally don’t feel that way. To me, the name on the marquee doesn’t change my experience of coming here, enjoying baseball, watching the Cubs win. It’s still the same. I still come to Clark and Addison, or in my case Waveland and Sheffield because I go in the other way, it’s still the same place it would just have a different name over the door. It doesn’t really bother me.

CK: Listen, we have a trust factor here, right? And I think some people are concerned maybe they’ll take the money and just run with it. Can you guarantee me, people have asked, can you guarantee me a World Series. You know, there are no guarantees, right, no matter how much you spend on the payroll. I’d like to think in the last three years or at least during my tenure here since ’03, you’ve seen the payroll rise. When I came in my first year the payroll was around $80 million. This year it’s north of $120. It’ll put us in the top five…

BCB: Is there still room to make acquisitions this year?

CK: Yes. We’ll do what we need to do to keep moving forward.

I think people were concerned and I know you’re a bleacher goer, that when we said we’re gonna tear the bleachers to the ground that we were going to ruin the character, ruin the tradition in the bleachers We had blog sites opposing it and people on the sidewalk in sleeping bags trying to stop the construction crews and we said trust us. Trust us, the bleachers will still be great. In fact we think they’ll be better. And you’re an expert on it more than I am. I’d like to think you know, proximity to the field, character and the feel of it is still there and yet washrooms work, disabled seating for the first time ever in the bleachers. The food service I think is a little better. People can gather in the back, it’s not obstructing your ability to get down into your seats. Is it perfect? No, it’s not perfect. But given that the bleachers needed to be replaced did we do a good job? We hope so.

BCB: I think, from my point of view as a bleacher season ticket holder and somebody who is out there every day, I think you guys did a great job. It looks great, it feels great. My group moved because the place that we had doesn’t exist anymore. But we found a new place that’s just as good. And our experience hasn’t changed. I think it was done very well.

CK: I was with you in the bleachers the other day and what I like to do is sit everywhere over a home stand and sees how we’re doing. And the bleachers are my favorite place to sit. If I could do it without a lot of noise, I’d work out there. I’d literally take my work that I normally do during the game and I’d sit there and do it if I could, ‘cause I think it’s the best place to see the game.

BCB: Come on out there again sometime. Spend some more time with us.

CK: I was out there the day after I saw you for most of the game. The Sunday game was great.

But anyway, there’s a trust factor, right? And I think we are trying to build with our fan base some level of trust that this isn’t the old Cubs where you’re gonna have success followed by failure for several years and then success followed by failure. We hope we’re building on what we did last year, adding some additional pieces that we think will take us in the right direction. And the same thing will be true with whatever we do on the naming rights. Not looking forward myself, personally, to taking Wrigley off the building. That’s not something that’s imminent. It’s just something we’re considering. But again, like I said, we have an obligation I think to look at everything.

BCB: Since you were talking about construction, bleacher construction, changing parts of the ballpark -- just about every part of the ballpark has been redone in the last 40 years, you probably know they did the lower seating bowl in the late ‘60s and then the suites and the press box in ‘80s and the lights and all the lower deck seats have been replaced in the last 10-15 years. What has to happen next? You know you had the upper deck concrete problem in ’04 and the netting is still there. People have speculated that the upper deck has to come down and be rebuilt. What are your thoughts or plans or even general ideas about what has to be done? People express fears that the Cubs will have to play at the Cell for a year and say: "We don’t want them to win at the Cell, we want them to win at Wrigley Field"; some people say they won’t even go to the Cell. So what direction is that going to take?

CK: To be perfectly honest, we have no interest in going to the Cell. That was again, in answer to a question, I think it was three If’s and a maybe. Somebody said "What about playing at US Cell?" and I said, listen: IF we get the ISFA deal done, and IF as a result of getting our transaction with ISFA we are going to go through a major renovation and IF the renovation requires us to leave the ballpark then MAYBE we would go to US Cellular. So that’s what I said – three ifs and a maybe. What was written up in the Sun-Times was "Cubs Going to Cellular". So just to be clear, we don’t want to go anywhere.

BCB: Do you think, as one of the articles I read suggested, that you thought maybe you could do this in pieces over the course of a year so you wouldn’t have to ... and part of an off season…

CK: As you know, we built the bleachers from the ground up in an off season. We can do some tremendous things in an off season. We hope the off season’s a month shorter than it has been in some recent years but we can get a lot done so it can just be sequencing the work, what our budget is.

But back to your original question, what needs to be done? You mentioned the skyboxes were done in the late ‘80s. That’s now 20 some years ago. When I was out last weekend to see the new Nationals ballpark, our suites are woefully behind both in size and amenities. We can improve what’s inside them… it’s almost one of those things where do you want to put a lot of money in your kitchen and then expand it two years later. We need to both expand them an improve. It’s the level of amenity within major market like this, with major corporate clientele. They expect a certain level of quality and to be honest, US Cellular Field has raised the bar. They’ve got terrific suites there. That is the level of quality that corporate fans expect in our ballpark and we’re not delivering.

BCB: I’ve thought about this myself because I’ve been to the Stadium Club at the Cell and at Miller Park and in Atlanta -- have you considered a stadium club where you can sit and watch the game?

CK: Yes.

BCB: You have a Stadium Club here but you can’t watch the game from there. Have you considered something like that?

CK: One of the things I was in Washington to see is what they’ve done in the back of their mezzanine section. And that’s exactly what we would want to do there, if we can get ourselves, our administrative offices out of this building and put us somewhere else.

The administrative offices for the team are here in the building [Wrigley Field]. They shouldn’t be. The building should be dedicated exclusively to game day services to provide more for the fans, more for our players. So if we can vacate our square footage here, move somewhere, use this space for a lounge or for fans in the back of the mezzanine level, creating a new section with a view infield, that would be on our list. I mentioned the skyboxes would be on our list. We’ve got some work to do just with the concrete and steel that we do every year. The building is safe. We get certified every year. We have engineers, hands on inspections since the concrete fell. So it’s not a safety issue, but it is a sort of long range planning issue, which we like to think the team will be here for years.

If you want to look at the longer term perspective there’s things we should do with steel and concrete and that we’d like to do and if the ISFA structure will allow us to do. So, those are the primary things.

I’d love to think the bleacher experience could be replicated in the grandstand where restrooms, concessions, disabled seating, all the things that we’ve done to bring that to sort of the modern day could be done here and hopefully with the same reaction from fans, which has generally been, on everything we’ve done: gee, it doesn’t really look like you’ve changed much. When we added the lights in ’88 people said hey, they fit right in. The skyboxes, hey, that didn’t really disturb too much. The bleachers, yeah, we know they’re bigger but we still have the taper, we still see the buildings, we still see the "L", we still see the lake. I have people say I can’t even believe you did the bleachers because they don’t look any different.

BCB: From home plate they really don’t.

CK: Yeah, so that’s the goal. The goal is can you build a new ballpark inside our old ballpark where no one really sees the differences except for when they go to the restroom, when they go to get their concessions, in those areas.

BCB: And you’re saying you think you can do this.

CK: Yes, we think we can do that. Now again, that’s why we like this transaction with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority so much. They’ve done this twice now. They built US Cellular, they renovated Soldier Field. We would love to partnership with them, bring the rest of Wrigley into the modern age.

BCB: All right, that raises another question. There have been a lot of people at BCB who have been adamantly against this deal. They say they don’t want the state involved, they don’t trust political figures even though, as you say, they have done two stadiums already. What is it about doing this deal that would be better for new ownership rather than buying the ballpark themselves? Why is that better?

CK: Well, those things that I just talked about will take some amount of resources and as we all know most, almost all stadiums do have public support. As the White Sox, it’s 15 years old now, have had three major facelifts. We need a facelift. We think that one, the public can finance things at a cheaper level than the private sector. We would maintain control over, the Cubs would, the new owner, over the architectural and engineering plans for the building. So while it would be a partnership, the actual design and the way it would get done would be controlled by the team. So if you liked what happened in the bleachers you can imagine the same groups of architects and engineers would be working on maintaining all of the essence of Wrigley Field on the inside, but obviously bringing basically the behind the scenes action, what happens in the concourse and elsewhere, up to code. So the reason we like it for a new owner, you’re going to provide all these new amenities, you’re going to basically take the stadium in to a zone where you have the next 40, 50 years knowing it’s essentially a new stadium. The bleachers aren’t going to need any significant capital for 30 years. We’re putting a lot of money every year, patchwork money, into, you see the work going on, into the grandstands. We’d love to look back and say hey, essentially it’s a new facility in the grandstands, you can look out… so for a new owner you get a building that is now kind of ready for the next 30-40 years, you get new fan amenities, and let’s be frank, you get new revenue sources. The triangle building gets built as part of the ISFA transaction.

BCB: I know the figure of 300-350 million dollars was batted around. Obviously there are no guarantees, but what can you tell me that says this won’t be paid for with my Illinois tax dollars?

CK: All right, so I think we’ve already talked about the sources of funding for this transaction will come exclusively from inside this building. So what we would do is we would take what we call the transactional taxes that are paid here, sales taxes that are paid in the building on food, drink, merchandise, amusement taxes that are paid on ticket sales, use taxes, etc. Those taxes that are right now being paid inside the building for money being spent here, we would use a baseline year of 2007 and then all the incremental taxes that otherwise would have been paid into the general coffers above that baseline year would now go to support a bond issue which would renovate the stadium over 30 years. So the source of the funding comes from three places. One is Tribune would make a substantial contribution…

BCB: Tribune or new ownership?

CK: No, Tribune. Sam Zell was pretty clear. He said if we can do the ISFA transaction it has to be a three-way partnership between the team, Tribune as the current owner and the future owner, ISFA. So all three parties who have an interest in it will actually make a contribution toward it. So, Tribune would make a big contribution, the team would have an annual payment in this structure to repay these bonds. So backing up a minute… bonds would be issued, municipal bonds, tax free bonds. And again a pretty efficient financing structure because they’re being issued by the state. So tax-free bonds are issued. Those proceeds in that 200, 300 million dollar range, are used to make these renovations happen. And then those bonds are repaid over 30 years and the source of that repayment is Tribune contribution, team contribution and then this incremental transactional tax that occurs inside this building.

BCB: So in other words, there would be an increase in some things that people buy here in terms of concessions…

CK: If we raise the price of beer from $5.25 to $5.50, that will occur. It’s just the taxes that would have been paid above a flat level… let’s just say today all of those taxes in total are $10 million that go to the City in ’07. The city, the county, the state. So it’s $10 million today. In ’08, let’s say because of ticket prices going up, concession prices going up, that percentage that you pay of amusement tax, etc., makes that number $11 million or $12 million. The $1 or $2 million difference between the base number and the increment, that's what would go to repay the bonds. So, it’s a way for the city, the state and the county to participate by saying pay us what you did last year for the next 30 years but all the incremental taxes that otherwise would come to us that are generated in the building stay in the building.

BCB: So the baseline is the year before or there’s a baseline year?

CK: The baseline year would be chosen. I’m just using ’07 because that’s last year. So if we got the deal done this year you’d say okay, after the ’07 amount that was paid, all incremental amounts will go to service the facility and I think the elegance of it is what you’re essentially doing is asking people who use the building to support its improvement. So, if you’re buying your tickets, you’re buying your merchandise here, normally the taxes that are collected above the baseline would go into general use, but we’re basically saying you’re here, you’re spending the money at Wrigley Field and you probably enjoy the ballpark, let’s have that money instead of going into general funds, stay here for the renovations.

BCB: So no general tax revenue from the city, county, the state…

CK: And this is where all the fallacy, there’s no property taxes on people outside the building. There’s no additional sales on stuff that’s being purchased in our building. It’s just the increment above the baseline year.

BCB: Some people might look at that and say, okay, if you’re going to keep the building then ticket prices will go up more than what they might have on a normal basis…

CK: That’ll be the new owner’s prerogative to decide where ticket prices should be for this market, for the quality of the team that we put on the field. We would hope, like the Red Sox, that we merit a ticket price increase every year. And as you know, we did not raise ticket prices for the ’07 season after ’06, because to be honest in my view, we didn’t merit an increase given our performance on the field. We did have a healthy increase this year, as we all know, and we think, again, if we’re putting our resources where our mouth is, that is the Fukudome signing, doing Reed Johnson late in the spring, doing Lieber, re-signing Zambrano, locking up our talent, we think people will continue to support us, which is… the end goal here is to deliver a return on that investment. And going back to my decision to change some things out here after the ’06 season… we have a big due bill here, as no one is surprised at and it’s our time to pay up.

BCB: What can you tell me about the transfer of ownership in terms of the timeline, in terms of the various groups that have been discussed publicly, in terms of who is in the running or isn’t in the running. There are supposedly favorites or not favorites. Are there any such animals and where does it stand today?

CK: Well, we’re not saying much about the process and I think what we have said publicly is that the transaction, the transfer will occur this year and the books aren’t out. We’re working really hard on the stadium transaction, which we think needs to precede the team sale because the new owner needs to understand what are their obligations and opportunities in the new ISFA structure. But the team will be sold this year.

BCB: Before the end of the baseball season or before the end of the calendar year?

CK: I don’t want to put any dates on it. It’ll find its own momentum the way these transactions normally do and it’s sometime this year and there are no favorites. There’s no one who has got some inside track. It’s actually even too early to handicap any bidders.

BCB: Does it absolutely go to the person or group that puts out the most dollars or are there other factors?

CK: No, you need three-quarters of the team owners to approve a new owner and from my perspective, and not that this is my decision, this is really Sam Zell and the Tribune leadership’s decision, I’d love to see a local owner, but if a good owner from a different market wants to come in and pay the right price, will be the right custodian in the league’s perspective, then that could happen, too. But it’s not simply if you pay the most you get the asset because the League has a say and they can veto or vote down someone even if they wanted to pay more than the next guy.

BCB: Last week it was announced that you had given up your Tribune duties to concentrate exclusively here. Under a new ownership, would you like to stay as team president?

CK: It’s the prerogative of the new owner to decide who the management team is. I would want to stay, I think, if the direction for the new owner is the direction we’re heading now, which is there is enormous opportunity here and we’re starting to see a lot of it come to life through things we’re doing like the CBOE transaction… we can be a good partner for new business. We can also put a hell of a ball team on the field and keep this snowball rolling. And so in that light, yeah, that’s something of interest. But again, it’s going to be the new owner’s decision on what team is here and that’s just the way it works.

BCB: When you came out to the bleachers you mentioned the possibility of taking the bleacher boxes and turning them into a family section, maybe sponsored. One thought is, some of us actually looked at that area a year or so ago and thought, why couldn’t you take out half the seats and put in tables and then you could really make it a family area as you were proposing where a family could come in and have a place to eat and then watch the game…

CK: We’re not a fan of taking seats out. We’ve got a small enough ballpark as it is and you’ve seen what we’re trying to do, which is find creative ways like we’ve done in the two boxes that we’ve created next to the dugouts…

BCB: A lot of days those bleacher boxes don’t sell out.

CK: A lot of games they don’t. But when they do, it’s one of those things that shrinking the capacity of our stadium, we’re going to resist that. For instance, you could improve the skyboxes by knocking walls down and sort of creating two boxes out of every three that exist today. So we’re looking at things where you maybe do kill some seats to create some fan amenities. But back to… I agree with you on the whole family section. I love the idea. That’s one of the many things we’re looking at.

BCB: Another thing, some of us in the bleachers have looked at, I know that you installed two disabled seating areas, one behind the bleacher boxes and the other behind the Batter’s Eye. I never see anybody sitting in the area behind the Batter’s Eye. Have you ever thought about using that area for something else? It really isn’t being used.

CK: We have a requirement under the code to create a certain number of disabled seating spots for every seat that we added. So those seats need to exist somewhere.

BCB: Even if they’re not used.

CK: Even if they’re not used. And that’s just the way the code works.

BCB: You talk about the triangle building and some of the things that might go in there. What about the extra parking spaces that supposedly were agreed to when the bleachers were expanded. Are those also plan on going in there?

CK: There’s parking included in the building and we have roughly 1500 spots available at various locations. We’re doing what we can given we don’t control all the real estate around here. When there’s a service lot available, like the Gold Lot last year that we bought. To be honest, the parking situation needs to be addressed. We know that. It’s not ideal in any way. But, again, all we can do is when there’s a lot that’s suitable that comes up for sale a decent walking distance from the ballpark, we can try and buy it. Sometimes we’re not first to the scene, and sometimes the asking price is outrageous. So one nice thing about the ISFA transaction that we all like is their ability to invest in a multi-tiered parking structure north of Grace here where we now have this big surface lot and what we would hope is that we could serve more cars there, it’s obviously a short walk.

BCB: Is that the old lot that was the…

CK: The Purple, we call it the Purple Lot. A lot of people don’t refer to it as that but the Purple Lot is north of the stadium. As you know, the stadium has grown up in a neighborhood that is almost entirely residential and we have to work very hard with our neighbors to make sure we’re a good neighbor ourselves and through our night game situation and concerts and a variety of things, they’ve been, the neighbors have been terrific in working with us in the last five years. Guys like Mike Lufrano get all the credit for that. But everything we want to do in terms of pushing this organization forward and again, with every focus on the field, you do have to be sensitive to their needs and they’ve got parking issues and traffic issues, garbage pickup issues…

BCB: You mentioned concerts. I heard a rumor there may be a concert or two here this summer. Is there anything you can say about that?

CK: Not clear what we’re going to do. Again, we want to do concerts when they make sense. Two big shows a year in our view are better than trying to stage five smaller ones in terms of we really disrupt the business in the neighborhood when we close down streets – stages in and out, fans coming in and out. So if we can do a couple of shows in and out it’s a big show that’ll sell out, we’d rather do two shows that will sell out 40,000 seats than four shows that sell 20,000 seats. And if we can find the right performers, and to be honest there aren’t that many that can draw 40,000 twice, two days in a row, we’ll do it, but otherwise we’ll pass. We’re doing a lot of new things here, such as the Peoria Chiefs game we just announced to take place on July 29. We’re going to be announcing soon our first Spanish radio deal to put our games for our Spanish population in their native tongue. You know the seat auctions, the naming rights for the seats. And again, there’s a trust factor here that things like this are all generating income for the right use, and that’s up to us in the front office here to make sure that’s true.

BCB: Going back to concerts for a minute. You’re not concerned that a concert will take a toll on the brand new field?

CK: No, we are concerned about concerts taking a toll on the field but that’s not why we wouldn’t do one. We wouldn’t do one if it’s not the right performer. In fact, the new field will be more resilient to a concert than the old field.

BCB: Because of the drainage system?

CK: The new drainage system, actually the new foundation. In fact there were things that were done that’ll actually make it easier to stage a concert.

BCB: You know, once again another thing that you’ve done here that I think was done absolutely perfectly: the field looks great, you got it done in record time. I enjoyed looking at the web cams every day looking at the way it was done. It was fascinating to watch them work.

CK: Roger Baird gets all the credit there -- he worked with Roger Bossard who was sort of our consultant on the project. We have to thank Sam Zell on that one because that’s something he knew needed to be done that he green-lighted really in the first five minutes of me asking for it. And I think all the credit goes to the ground crew in a really terrible winter to be looking for a new field to not only survive but thrive. We wanted it to be perfect and what we’re hearing from the players is they couldn’t be more happy.

BCB: It looks great from our viewpoint.

CK: The point is, we’re trying. We’re not gonna bat 1.000. I look back on my six years now and listen, we’ve made our mistakes. Taking the names off the jerseys -- probably not one of my better decisions. Some of the things we’ve done related to the rooftops, probably not. But listen, we’re ready to change, we’re ready to make some things that some people find difficult decisions, we’re not going to shy away from something just because it’s hard again, as long as the motive is it moves the team forward.

BCB: What about this year’s schedule, which seems crazy – from April 22 to May 9 it’s seven different cities in 18 days -- Chicago, Denver, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago again.

CK: It’s the worst schedule we’ve ever had.

BCB: Who comes up with this?

CK: It’s the league and we can’t blame Katy Feeney but the way the schedule got brought to us this year, it’s the worst schedule, loaded in April and May. Our important series are all road series in September. Now listen, it’s one of the things we’ll overcome but it certainly doesn’t help.

BCB: Lucky so far you’ve had half way decent weather.

CK: Weather, somebody upstairs is smiling on us.

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