The Greed Factor

By Chris Rewers on Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My friend and colleague, Steve Rhodes, found my post regarding the proposed Toyota sign behind the left-field bleachers jarring to his sensibilities. So jarring, in fact, that he said it would be like somebody posting on his Beachwood Reporter site: "Mayor Daley is great and is doing a wonderful job!"

Steve's reaction caused me to give a lot of thought to the topics of advertising at Wrigley Field and greed in baseball.

The scoreboard is iconic. The ivy is unique. The layout of the bleachers is special. The location of the ballpark (regardless of the yuppification) enhances the experience.

Cubs management will never tamper with those things or do something like install an electronic scoreboard because it would be bad business. Part of selling the Wrigley experience is the charm.

But I don't think a billboard "ruins" Wrigley. I don't think it ruins the organic experience. I didn't even notice the ads on the bricks or the dugout when I was there last weekend. I don't consider ads to be a Them vs. Us issue.

Just because a rich guy makes a buck from an ad is fine by me. Operating a ballclub is a business. It is not a charity or a non-profit.

The rotating billboard behind home plate was annoying when it was first installed, but I've become used to it. The Under Armour logos on the outfield doors don't bother me.

A Medill story that I read a couple weeks ago claimed that the Cubs lose out on $10-15 million in annual revenue because of the lack of scoreboard ads. So the team has to be creative in figuring out ways to raise that cash.

Is erecting a billboard greedy? I don't think so. From what I have read, all it will do is block the Horeshoe ad on the roof across the street. It won't obstruct rooftop views.

What do I deem to be greedy?

I find the recent practice of the tier-pricing of tickets greedy. Why a ticket for a game against Cincinnati in August costs more than an identical one against Florida in May is beyond me.

People who buy season tickets with the only motive being to resell them for a profit are greedy.

Ticket brokers who buy up all the best seats and sell them at marked-up prices are greedy. Especially when the club is in on it. MLB's partnership with StubHub is criminal. The Cubs Ticket Exchange on the team's Web site is all kinds of wrong.

Teams that play one city off of another for the right to host spring training like the Cubs (Mesa vs. Naples) is wrong. "Build us a new publicly-funded facility or we're moving somewhere where they will," is greedy. It's extortion and corporate welfare of the worst kind.

According to our mission statement (see "About Agony & Ivy" down there on the right), would we have opposed night games 25 years ago? I like the way Wrigley looks at night and the introduction of night games has allowed me and other fans to attend and watch far more games than we otherwise would have been able to. It has enhanced my fan experience.

My concern is that if the government and watchdog groups make it too difficult for the team to make a buck, the product on the field will suffer. Or worse, the team will relocate to a Wrigley Field replica in Schaumburg.

Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by Chris Rewers
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