In this day and age of high priced free agents, every Major League ball club is looking for a way to maximize profits. And with billionaire investment banker owners, the Cubs find themselves in a position to be "maximized" in every way possible. So, I've compiled a few helpful suggestions for Tom Ricketts and company.
1. Make Wrigley Field BYOB in 2014 (or at least until the Cubs are in a pennant race)
This may sound counterintuitive at first, but with average attendance down 5,000 from only two years ago, and prices as low as $6 for many games last year on StubHub, the Cubs could easily sell out daily at full price, even if they languish in last place. We all know from seeing games on TV or at the ball park that the announced attendance and actual people in the seats greatly differed last year, to the point of when the paid attendance was announced, fans in the crowd laughed out loud, and gave each other side eye. Needless to say, beer sales are way down. My back-of-the-napkin figuring says the Cubs make about $174,000 by selling 25,000 beers a game, but would make $300,000 off of 10,000 more paid fans at $30 a ticket. Multiply that difference by 81, and I've just made you an extra $10,206,000 a year -- plenty of money for a mid level star.
Also, think of all the drunken impulse purchases of overpriced licensed fan gear and salty snacks. More drunks in and around Wrigley will also result in revenue for the city for public urination citations. We have a win-win here, people.
2. Auction off seats in the Cubs bullpen and on the bullpen bench
Think the CBOE box seats are the best view of a ballgame at Wrigley? Think again! If you've ever dreamed of what it would feel like to be a big leaguer sitting with your team in the dugout, this could be your chance to pay lots of money for the thrill of being part of the game. I know there are plenty of rich folks out there that would easily plop down 10 grand for the privilege of living out their major league fantasy. So, let's say you offer six seats a game. (We're going to need a longer bullpen bench). Six seats for 81 games is nearly $5 million a season. With that kind of money, we could have entered the Dioner Navarro sweepstakes and still had a couple million left over to sign Ian Stewart to another deal!
Gambling at Wrigley Field is nothing new, but the Cubs have never gotten a piece of the action. Most fans have smart phones which could be used to wager on every aspect of a baseball game. Balls, strikes, outs, or even rain delay lengths. The Cubs could take a piece of every bet, and set odds based on percentages of who's wagering and how much they're betting. Basically, we'd all be gambling against each other like always, but the Cubs will take a "house" commission. If you could get 20,000 fans to wager $20 a game, with the Cubs taking 5 percent, the net result would be an extra $1.62 million a year. With the Ricketts family's experience setting up online gambling, um, I mean, investment platforms, this odds making venture could potentially grow into a billion dollar enterprise if you could set up the equivalent of baseball OTBs outside the park as well.
4. The Church of Wrigley
Wrigley is empty over 200 days a year. Plenty of free time for the regular churchgoers who attend mass around 60 days a year considering holy days of obligation, weddings, christenings, and funerals. They also regularly tithe the traditional 10 percent of their earnings to the church. Mega churches average 10,000 followers per service, which is a 40-degree rainy day crowd at Wrigley. With the median household income at around $50,000 for a family of four, this results in 2500 separate household tithings at $5,000 apiece, for a whopping $12.5 million of tax-free money! This total doesn't even include concession sales! Of course, you'd have to do a bit of requisite charity work with some of the money, but soup kitchens are cheap to run. And maybe 10 percent of the money would have to go towards pancake breakfasts and cheap wine, but you'd still have enough cash left over for a solid starter!
5. A Gary Pressy/Wayne Messmer Calypso Album
As a musician myself, I intimately know the artistic staleness that is inherent in repeating the same music over and over. With nearly 50 years experience playing Wrigley Field, Messmer and Pressy are prime candidates to escape their musical rut, and record a timeless Calypso album.
Messmer is at about 75 percent of his former self. When he chews on the diphthong, on the final note, "Braeeeeeve!", the sound is tinged with gravel, and his vibrato is sometimes wider than the gap between the Cubs and first place in September. Calypso singing which relies more on rhythm and straighter tones is the perfect music to rejigger his voice to last another 25 years.
Pressy could use some rhythm practice. Though generally on point, he gets the snare drum beat wrong on the Violent Femmes "Blister in the Sun" snippet every time by speeding through the 16th notes. I don't know if he just doesn't know how the song goes, or there's a technical problem with his organ, (pregnant pause)…. but it was dead wrong all last year. Calypso's rolling island rhythms will get him back in the groove!
Calypso, popularized by Harry Belafonte with songs like "The Banana Boat Song" in the mid-1950s, regained popularity in the mid-1980s when "Dayo" was featured in the Geena Davis vehicle "Beetlejuice." Fast forward 30 more years, and we are poised for a Calypso explosion not attempted since the internet age began.
How much money could a Calypso album bring? Figure after production costs, you can sell at least a million copies at a profit of six bucks an album. Six million dollars! Plus recurring revenues from streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. Not too shabby!
So, all in all, my business plan just made or saved around $35 million a year. There's your perennial all-star salary right there, with a little left over for some middle relief and a third baseman! Plus, my plan is way more entertaining than gaudy advertising slapped up in the ball park, or some scoreboard where you have to look at giant photos of even the most unattractive ball players. Do we really need to look at a 30-foot-tall picture of Aaron Harang's face?
My plan encompasses many of the tried and true ways of historically making money. Booze, gambling, religion, letting rich guys live out childhood fantasies, and Calypso albums. With a little hard work, and some "thinking outside the box", the Cubs can go a long way to maximizing profits, and putting a first rate product on the field every year. Cubs fans deserve it!