2016 Cubs Convention: Business Operations Update

The business operations of the Chicago Cubs continues to deliver growth for the long-term success of the organization. At this panel, fans heard directly from Cubs business executives on initiatives underway to grow revenue, enhance the fan experience and support the Wrigleyville community. Fans also received an update on the progress of the 1060 Project.

Crane Kenney leads off with an update on what the organization accomplished in 2015 and says he will look ahead at what’s happening next year and beyond.

He begins by thanking the fans for their support through this process of restoring Wrigley Field. The fans have stuck with the team through good and bad.

The decision to play at Wrigley Field while restoring it was like flying a plane while you’re building it. It was a difficult process. They knew they would be opposed by the alderman, rooftops, etc. They appreciate the way the fans stuck with them.

The Cubs asked for your patience last year and will ask for it again in the coming years. The plaza and office building will be built during the 2016 season. Work on the western gate will go on throughout the season and be completed by end of season.

The greatest thing the Ricketts family has done for the team is to give each department time. Owners are thinking about the organization in the long term. This isn’t a rush job. The philosophy is to make sure things are done right.

Patience needs to be rewarded, and the Cubs feel like they’ve made a bit of a down payment on some of the fans’ patience with the success last season. Kenney celebrates some of the teams’ on-field accomplishments. He also talks a bit about bringing Ryne Sandberg back into the family.

Kenney celebrates the success of the video boards and talks about how the fans have accepted them. He speaks a little about the new partnership with CBS Radio and ABC-TV. This allows them to reach a greater audience in Chicago. Their average rating was the same as TBS got for the NLCS broadcasts.

Paid attendance increased by 300,000 at Wrigley Field. Season ticket holders just renewed at a 98 percent clip. They also broke a spring training attendance record at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. And spring training sales have already doubled so far this year.

Kenney gives a big shout out to Cubs Charities and the work they do in the community.

The 1060 Project has been one of the largest job creators in the state in the past year. Kenney runs through the work they did on the park and shows a video recapping the progress. They’re now budgeting for shorter offseason work schedules to accommodate postseason play. That gets some applause. This will likely make the project more expensive, and it will take a little longer.

This season, the left-field terrace seats are being replaced.

The new clubhouse is progressing and will be ready by opening day. It will be one of the largest in baseball and the most expensive in history. Another video gives a sneak peek on the work. Phase 2 is more about steel structure in the stadium for the fans and the new player facilities. The new player spaces are 30,000 square feet.

Work on both the new plaza and hotel will be ongoing during the 2016 season.

Kenney says they are close to completing their journey from worst to first in terms of player facilities. He then shows pictures of the plan for the new plaza on the west side of the ballpark. This new plaza will be ready for opening day 2017.

The Cubs just announced the acquisition of three new rooftops. They also launched WrigleyRooftops.com for fans looking to book the rooftops.

They are also working on the center field bleachers to finish that part of the project. They’re bringing back the planters boxes from decades ago. There will also be an interactive history display on the bleacher concourse.

The new concert schedule at Wrigley Field includes James Taylor, Billy Joel and Luke Bryan. The concert business is a major contributor to the Cubs bottom line and has helped them grow their payroll. But the priority is still keeping the field ready for play.

The majority of the Friday afternoon games will be 1:20 starts this year. They are forgoing the 3:05 starts in 2015. Joe Maddon wanted more consistency with game time starts.

Kenney then opens the floor to questions. He is joined by Colin Faulkner, Alex Sugarman, Alison Miller and Carl Rice.

Carl Rice talks about how the mild winter weather has helped them with the construction season. Plus the project is not as exposed to the elements this year. A lot of the work is enclosed.

 There will be increased security measures in MLB this year. Kenney says how seriously they take security. There will be metal detectors this season to protect players, fans, etc. The Cubs have asked the city for help protect the stadium by extending their perimeter of control. They wouldn’t own that space, they would just know which cars, etc. are traveling there. The Cubs ask that you plan to give yourself more time to get into the ballpark this year.

 They will be extending the protective netting at the ballpark this year.

 A fan asks why Ernie Banks wasn’t more prominent at this convention. Kenney says they probably should have had a moment of silence.

 Kenney and Faulkner talk a bit about digital ticketing. More fans seem to prefer digital tickets to standard paper tickets.

 Season ticket holders will have a chance to purchase their old seats that have been removed and replaced. The Cubs will reach out to season ticket holders about this.

 A fan asks about the increase in season ticket prices. Ticket prices stayed flat during the lean years. The goal is to put as many resources as possible into the Cubs three primary goals for the organization. They looked at data, talked to fans. It was a tough decision, but the right one.

 The pavers that were removed are all being replaced. They are in place right now (but covered) and will be unveiled on opening day.

 In the long run, the Cubs would like to close off Sheffield as a pedestrian mall like they do at Fenway. It’s not a high priority right now.

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