Wrigley Renovations: What Is A Video Board Worth?

Otto Greule Jr

The Seattle Mariners unveiled this year the biggest video screen in the major leagues (above). How much is a Jumbotron worth to baseball teams?

Sunday's Tribune includes this front-page story on video screens in Major League Baseball and how much such a screen might be worth to the Cubs. Rather than drag on for several paragraphs, here's the meat of the story:

"This is about winning, bringing our fans a world championship," said Cubs spokesman Julian Green. "The revenue that we can generate from signs, the Jumbotron, and some of the other features that we're trying to do in the stadium, this helps put money back onto the field."

Green declined to speculate on the advertising revenue potential of the screen, but industry sources said a screen at a ballpark like Wrigley could generate several million dollars a year, perhaps as much as $5 million. Over 2O years, that would represent nearly one-third of the renovation cost.

$5 million a year doesn't seem all that much; in today's market, that pays for one year of David DeJesus. Nevertheless, it's $5 million a year the Cubs wouldn't otherwise be able to get. What interested me more is the infographic below, which was in the dead-tree edition of the Tribune, but not in the online link:

You can see that the new board at Safeco is about one-third larger than the next-biggest board (Kauffman Stadium), and that the 6,000-square-foot size that was once reported to be the Cubs' desired size would be seventh-largest in the major leagues. You can also see that the size of the current Wrigley Field board ranks 26th among all big-league scoreboards (though the article gets one fact wrong -- the current board isn't "wooden", it's made of steel); the 2,025 square feet break down to 27 feet high, 75 feet wide.

A 6,000-square-foot board would completely overwhelm Wrigley Field; if the Cubs want to stay somewhat true to the scale, history and style of Wrigley, they'll have to go somewhat smaller. They could probably do so if they put up two boards, one in right field and one in left field, as one current rumor has it. An example (as always) comes from the Boston Red Sox; the 3,800-square-foot size indicated in that graphic for the largest video board at Fenway Park is probably closer to what would fit at Wrigley, both to not block rooftop views and to fit in with the scale of Wrigley, which has the second-smallest footprint in the major legaues (amazingly, Fenway isn't the one smaller -- it's Target Field); the Tribune writers concur:

The closest parallel for Wrigley Field is Fenway Park, a historic venue that required a thoughtful integration of technology and tradition. Working with ANC, the team installed a nearly 3,8OO-square-foot HD Diamond Vision screen above the center-field bleachers two seasons ago, employing old-time fonts and painting the frame Fenway green to blend with the quaint ballpark.

In my view, the Cubs have been bending over backwards to try to accomodate everyone with their proposals for renovation and more night games. This deal should have been done months ago, except for the desires of some in this city to play political games. That's just dumb. The Cubs and the Ricketts family want to invest $500 million in this city. That ought to be enough that the answer should be, "When can you start?"

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