If the proposed changes to Wrigley Field, including the bleacher expansion, are approved by the Chicago City Council, the 2005 season will be the last in which the bleachers will look as they do now.
The deal between the team and the city is apparently very close, and:
This was the sticking point -- the city never wanted the Cubs' first proposal which would have included bleachers sticking out over the sidewalk, held up by posts, creating a "tunnel" effect. What the Cubs will do under the current proposal is actually move the back walls of the bleachers on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues back eight feet, narrowing the sidewalk itself (it's fairly wide right now at over 20 feet) and adding rows to the back of the current bleacher structure.
What do I think?
Well... I dunno. I'm too young to be a curmudgeon (though some who know me well will differ), but I kinda like things the way they are. I've got a place that I've been sitting out there for more than 25 years and it's comfortable and friendly and familiar. With rows added, and no detailed renderings yet available, it's difficult to tell whether our existing section will be left alone, or whether we'll have to pull up stakes.
And yes, it does make a difference.
Adding 1,790 seats to the bleachers would increase its capacity to approximately 5,000 (officially -- and maybe as many as 500 more than that unofficially), and decrease the intense pressure on ticket sales. When I first started sitting in the bleachers in the 1970's, it wasn't considered the "place to be" as it is now. The Cubs know that the bleachers are probably the second-most desirable seats (second only to the best box seats) in the ballpark; they are certainly priced accordingly.
1,790 extra seats, at 2005 ticket prices, would result in extra gross revenues of $4,636,100 -- and that's not counting all the extra beer that would be sold.
Incidentally, speaking of revenues, hidden in the Cubs' ticket pricing page are the prices for the new bullpen box seats, now under construction next to the right field bullpen. They will be $40 for the six "value dates", $75 for the 35 "regular dates", and $125 for the 40 "premium dates". The prices for the dugout boxes added in 2004, remain the same as last year. If you enter Wrigley Field and sit in the main part of the ballpark and look out at the bleachers, your view has been largely unchanged for sixty-eight years. Wrigley Field is a national icon and I don't want to see it messed with "just because".
But the reality is, $5 million is $5 million, and the Cubs are spending the money on players -- with the largest payroll in the National League. You can disagree on how the money is being spent, but the ticket price increases each year are almost all going into the player payroll.
I don't want to completely sound like an apologist for the Tribsters here. In a perfect world, I'd like the bleachers to stay the way they are.
But this isn't a perfect world, as all of us know. So... let's win it now, so we can all celebrate in the Wrigley Field we have come to love for decades.
Because next year, it's likely going to be different.