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Cubs Season Ticket Holder Lunch/Q&A Session

Carl Rice, Wally Hayward and Colin Faulkner answer Cubs season ticket holders' questions at Wrigley Field. <em>(Photo by Al Yellon)</em>
Carl Rice, Wally Hayward and Colin Faulkner answer Cubs season ticket holders' questions at Wrigley Field. (Photo by Al Yellon)

About 60 Cubs season ticket holders were in attendance at Wrigley Field on a very hot and sticky afternoon (temperatures pushing the mid 90s) Thursday to ask questions.

Neither chairman Tom Ricketts (reported to be traveling) nor team president Crane Kenney were there for this, the third of three scheduled sessions since the middle of August. So, the answers were left to director of stadium operations Carl Rice, VP of marketing Wally Hayward and ticket manager Colin Faulkner.

The Cubs provided free food and drink (burgers, hot dogs, brats, chips and drinks) for us -- thanks, by the way -- and answered questions for almost two hours. Some of the questions were about the baseball operation, who the new GM might be and when he might be hired, and of course, none of the three management people there are part of the baseball operation and so didn't really have answers to those, nor would I have expected them to. It was, however, made absolutely clear -- again -- that the new GM will report directly to Tom Ricketts, and that Crane Kenney will not be part of the baseball side of the organization at all.

After the jump, some of the things they did have answers to regarding the non-baseball side of the Cubs.

One of the more interesting questions asked was about the Cubs' TV contracts; the questioner wanted to know when they expired, thinking that a Cubs TV network could bring much new revenue to the team. After 2014, the Cubs can take back half the games that are currently on WGN (presumably, putting them on CSN Chicago, where they have a 25% ownership interest) and the CSN deal ends after 2019. The issue, according to Hayward, is that part of the team's national fanbase comes from all the exposure over the years on WGN -- so they have to be careful about how they handle this.

About stadium renovations, plans for the Triangle Building are "constantly changing", according to Rice. There is still no word on when this building -- and the renovations that would then come to the ballpark itself -- will be built, although the team wants it done by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Cubs playing at Clark & Addison. The team wants these renovations done during offseasons and in some non-disruptive way during seasons, so they would not have to play any games elsewhere.

A number of people asked about jumbotrons and other signage -- a show of hands was about 50/50 about those. Logistically, as I wrote here back in June, the problem with having a jumbotron is the size required; you couldn't put it in the ballpark and there isn't really room elsewhere. As an alternative, the Cubs are considering some kind of beefed up addition to MLB smartphone apps, and AT&T is going to be spending $15 million this offseason to improve both 3G and wifi coverage at Wrigley. Supposedly, the wifi will be available only to people with AT&T phones, although I don't see how that could be -- wifi is wifi, and if it's password-protected, it'd only be a matter of time before the password got around.

The marketing department is taking a look at the entire "game presentation", particularly the 7th inning stretch singers and National Anthem singers. There was quite a bit of sentiment among the STH that the 7th inning stretch has gotten a bit out of control with the D-list celebrities; I mentioned that I'd love to see the Cubs ask Jim Cornelison to do the National Anthem as many times as he'd be available -- he's the best I have ever heard. (And some of the other singers are just... bad.)

There were quite a number of questions about ticketing, so maybe bullet points are better here:

  • The Cubs are looking at a dynamic pricing system, which would likely start in the bleachers. In no case would dynamic prices be below season ticket holder prices.
  • They're looking at having season ticket holder pricing below single game pricing -- something I have written about here numerous times. How much below is still to be determined.
  • I brought up the rainout policy that I've written about here before; I couldn't get them to commit to any sort of exchange policy, but they did say they'd look at that again this offseason.
  • The Cubs' deal with tickets.com ends after next year, and they are looking at Ticketmaster and other alternatives. They seem to like TM's system of being able -- for certain events -- to look at and choose specific seats, rather than just a price level. This is a good thing. I really don't like tickets.com's system; TM has its issues too, but as a whole I find it a lot better.
  • Also, MLB's deal with StubHub ends after 2012, and both teams and MLB as a whole are looking at possible other solutions for secondary market sales.
  • They reiterated what they've said before about PSL's -- there are no plans to have PSL's. They did say that current STH might be able to add seats to their plans.
  • Bleacher ticket prices "might" go down. (I would comment that they need to go down, based on current demand, the play of the team and the current economy.)

A couple of final notes that didn't fit in anywhere else above: someone asked about the Hilton's two-night stay requirement for the Cubs Convention, saying it was too expensive. The response: they have had meetings with the people at the Hilton and are going to have further meetings about this issue and the two-night stay requirement could be dropped. And, about any ballpark projects over the winter: nothing "grandiose", just some infrastructure improvements. Which could include more fixups of the bathrooms. (I knew that would make some of you laugh.)

It's nice of the Cubs to have these and they have limited the size of them so that pretty much everyone who wants to ask questions can do so. It's too bad that Ricketts and Kenney could not be at this session -- hope to see them at future sessions. I met several BCB readers at this session, too -- nice to meet you, and here's the long post I promised you I'd have about all the information given this afternoon.