Wrigley Renovations: Selling Every Bit Of Space

Photo: Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports. Photo illustration: Al Yellon

Advertising is a fact of life at sports stadiums. Wrigley Field has less of that than any other baseball park. If the Cubs get approval for their requests for more ads, that's going to change.

If you've been to Fenway Park -- or seen it on television -- you know that the famed Green Monster left-field wall there, which used to be just green with a scoreboard on the bottom, is now festooned with ads.

This could be possible at Wrigley Field, according to this Tribune article:

A Wrigley Field agreement approved by the city Landmarks Commission could pave the way for the Cubs to put advertising on the clock in the center field scoreboard and along the top of the outfield wall — proposals that have flown under the radar amid the public debate over renovations of the historic park.

While much of the attention has centered in recent weeks on controversial large video screens that could total 7,OOO square feet in left and right fields, the commission last month approved a "master sign program" outlining the team's plans for as much as 45,OOO square feet of advertisements on the ballpark's interior and exterior, roughly double what's there now.

You can see what this might look like from my rather crude Photoshop changes to the scoreborad photo above; one of the possibilities is an ad on the scoreboard clock. Personally, I wouldn't like that; some things should be left alone. The rest of the park? Really, advertising doesn't bother me at a baseball park, even some of the newer stadiums where dozens of ads are all over the place (Miller Park and Chase Field, in particular, come to mind). And you should remember this:

Cubs spokesman Julian Green said the commission asked the team to include "everything we could think of" in its request for new advertising. The commission approved the plan as part of the broader Wrigley Field renovation package but pulled out the proposals for the two big outfield signs, which will be considered at Thursday's commission meeting.

"That doesn't mean we're going to ask for all of this," Green said. "As we go forward, we have to balance being good stewards of the ballpark, the historic character that people love, while looking at the potential ability to increase sources of revenue."

Some of the ideas, including the one mentioned above regarding an ad on the clock, seem a little bit much:

The plan envisions putting a "branded name in white letters" on the clock face at the top of the landmark, hand-operated center field scoreboard. LED ads could also be affixed to the gooseneck lights atop the center field scoreboard.

Another idea outlined in the program is for a "sign grown into bushes" in the area of center field where there are no bleacher seats. That section, known as the "batter's eye," features bushes used to provide a dark background to help batters see the pitches better.

You can see what that "sign grown into bushes" might look like from this photo of PNC Park, although that's not an ad, simply a sign that says "PIRATES". If the Cubs are really going to do something "grown into bushes" in the batters' eye, let it be a Cubs logo, not an ad. There's only so far you can go with this advertising before it makes the place look cheap.

In general, though, I have no problem with most of this and, as noted in the Tribune article, it says the Cubs put "everything they could think of" into the proposal. That doesn't mean they'll actually do every single thing they asked for, just that they wanted to cover everything in the request to the Landmark Commission. When I'm watching a game, my focus is on the field and the players, not on the ads. (The ad on the clock is too much, though. That one, I hope they don't do.)

Thursday, the Commission considers all this plus the two most contentious requests, those for the Jumbotron and right-field "see-through" sign. Once that happens, things should start moving a bit faster, though final City Council approval is still needed.

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