Wrigley Field threat very real
The weather has been appalling here this week with snow most days, about 7 inches has fallen since Tuesday, followed periodically by rain making the walk home rather slushy. The Chicago Cubs
actually cancelled their home game on Wednesday but do play this afternoon and I will be attendance wrapped up like a wrapped up thing.
The Cubs are everyone's favourite losers, however they have some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the country and with a new manager, who has overseen some $300m spent on new players, there is a lot of expectation in the north part of the windy city.
However there is one big question mark that will hang over the 105-year old club this summer. The previous owner, media giant the Tribune Company
, have announced that they will sell one of the biggest clubs and brands in American sports at the end of the 2007 season. The Tribune Co. have put the Cubs on the block as part of its $8.2 billion sale to Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell
but there is a catch. The 'friendly confines' of Wrigley Field
might not be part of the deal.
There are a number of bidders lined up for the Cubs, who could fetch in the region of $600m - about 40% of Manchester United's value. However that is just for the 'franchise' alone and not for the hallowed ballpark they play on.
Wrigley Field is as much part of Cubs folklore as the team itself and the beautiful old stadium occupies some serious real estate land that Mr Zell, not known for his compassion, might find very useful. Just to add to that cocktail Zell is a fan and shareholder of Cubs' south-side rivals, The White Sox
Sports teams moving to new stadiums was invented in this country and sentimentality runs short when it comes to history and fans affinity with 'places of worship' they have grown up with. The same thing has been happening at home now for years and when Liverpool finally leave Anfield
, and the kopites accept it, you realise that we live in a very different world to the football one we lived in 25-years ago.
Potential new Cubs owner Jerry Colangelo, the respected businessman and Chicago born, said recently that new owners must take a ''hard look''
at the circumstances involving the team maintaining a long-term commitment to Wrigley Field. Other rumoured bidders have whispered the same.
Clubs move cities and teams move grounds on a regular basis here. Americans can't stand to look at an old building, they don't get it. Knock it down and build another one, the same but with more corporate boxes, they say. However Wrigley and Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park
are different. People have watched over and cared about these iconic places for decades but whilst Fenway got a new haircut and a facelift to the tune of $100m, the Tribune has lost continuous battles with the city and it's mayor (another White Sox fan) to be allowed to make improvements and grow the capacity.
Fenway has been revitalised because the owners were determined to do so. That's why one company owning the Cubs and another owning Wrigley, which Zell has confirmed is a possibility, could be the worst-case scenario for this landmark, built in 1914 and said to be valued at $90m.
Not many Cubs fans can see this scenario, but since when will anyone confer with them? There is a very real concern that Wrigley could go the same way of many famous stadiums before it and be consigned to history.