Left to right: Jennifer Surma, senior director, human resources; Crane Kenney, chairman; Mark McGuire, executive VP, business operations; Matt Wszolek, director, sales & promotions; Mike Lufrano, senior VP, community affairs; Carl Rice, senior director, facility management/information technology (Photo by Al Yellon)
About 100 season ticket holders got a chance today to meet with Crane Kenney and several other members of senior Cubs management (they're all identified in the photo caption). This is the first of what Kenney said will be three such meetings this summer, so if you are a season ticket holder and didn't get picked, you'll have two more shots at it. For the rest, this is a summary of what went on in the 90-minute Q-&-A session. (It's cool to watch the sprinklers go on, too -- you can see them in the background of the photo.)
Lunch was from one of the concession stands; everyone got a brat or hot dog, chips and a non-alcoholic drink, and then everyone assembled in the field boxes down the first base line. Many of the questions were regarding various logistical problems that people had. These were primarily in the upper deck and terrace reserve/box sections, things such as vendors with cotton candy sticks blocking views (they said they'd probably eliminate these), ushers blocking aisles while escorting people to seats (they'll look at this), and having enough TV's to view the game in places like the upper deck patio (where you can't see the game at all -- they said they'd either put monitors out there or pipe the WGN radio broadcast in).
Several people, mainly women, asked about the restrooms. Kenney said, "We're not going to defend the restrooms", and noted several issues, all of which he said they're going to deal with, including the problem of people going in the exit doors in certain restrooms, which creates traffic problems as well as other issues. The restrooms are also going to be addressed once new ownership comes in, along with a number of other things that have been pushed to the back burner, notably the Triangle Building. There were some other questions regarding the "older people" who serve as ushers sometimes getting involved in having to break up altercations, and they are looking at different ways to get security to such a scene faster and more efficiently. There are off-duty Chicago police officers in the ballpark during games, too.
There's quite a bit more, and this got to be a rather long post, so the rest is below the fold.
About new ownership, Kenney wasn't specific, only saying that they "hope" it will be finalized by season's end. The Triangle Building is top priority; Kenney repeated what he has told me several times, that they want to get non-essential things like team offices and storage out of Wrigley Field and move it to that building, so they can increase player and fan amenities in the ballpark itself. Kenney mentioned that all 29 other teams -- including the White Sox -- get some form of public money to improve their facilities, but the Cubs get none. Part of this is, he said, by choice, but he also hinted that perhaps new ownership could get some public funding, given that Wrigley Field is the third largest tourist attraction in the state.
Several questions were asked about season ticketing itself -- whether season ticket holders would ever get discounts (answer: no, primarily because of the 100,000 on the waiting list, many of whom would pay "more than face value"), and whether partial season ticket holders could get more playoff tickets (the team wants to make some tickets available to the general public, so that the team can create new Cubs fans -- this is a constant issue, how do they engage the next generation of baseball fans).
The issue of more night games was raised, and how having fewer night games requires an "adjustment" on the part of players who come here from other teams used to about 54 home night games (the ML average), cutting down to 30 here. It appears that at this time, they're not going to push the issue of adding night games, but both management and those season ticket holders in attendance (myself included) were strongly in favor of having a couple of Friday nights during the year, especially when coming home from a distant road trip on Thursday. This appears to be something they may push for, and I hope they get that. It wouldn't seem too disruptive to the neighborhood to have two Friday nights (out of 52 weeks a year) having Cubs home games.
Another show of hands was asked for regarding a Jumbotron, after a question was asked about "showing the errors" on the scoreboard. More than half the people (yes, myself included) said, yes, we'd approve of a Jumbotron, presuming the existing scoreboard was left alone AND they didn't do some of the ridiculous stunts some other teams do with such boards. Kenney hinted that perhaps it could be "on a rooftop". I'd be 100% in favor of something like this.
There were a couple of questions regarding the evacuation procedure for emergencies, prompted by the confusion that occurred during the tornado warning that happened during the game last August. They assured us that they pay close attention to weather forecasts, get the information out as quickly as possible, and are re-evaluating procedures. The problem comes in part from having an old facility with narrow aisles; this theme was repeated often during the lunch, with many hints that the Triangle Building will help in getting some logjams of various kinds fixed. The Triangle Building was mentioned many times during the lunch; this appears to be the club's #1 priority in improving the facility once ownership changes.
Since this lunch was not intended to be a discussion of the team on the field (and no baseball-side management people were there), no such questions were asked. I can tell you this, though: Cubs management does read this site and they always appreciate thoughtful and constructive suggestions on how to improve the team, no matter whether it's on the field or about the ballpark. Thanks to Crane Kenney and the management team for having these sessions. (Site note: because of this unusual midafternoon post, tonight's game preview will post at 4:30 pm CDT, half an hour later than usual.)