MESA, Ariz. — The Chicago Cubs were the last major league team to add lights, ending a tradition that became synonymous with the ballclub.
Twenty-two years later, the Ricketts family is busy remodeling Wrigley Field, removing the concrete panels on the outer walls along Addison Street, adding a sports bar under the right-field bleachers and even contemplating advertising in the bleachers.
“We have a lot of work to do to improve the facilities,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “Obviously Wrigley needs a lot of love and a lot of help over the next few years.”
The Cubs have been adding new revenue streams for years, including the bleacher expansion, the LED signs on the upper deck and the Captain Morgan Club. With all the changes in store, could the end of Wrigley Field as we know it be at hand?
Will the Cubs eventually become the last team to add a Jumbotron?
Nothing is in the works, though a straw poll team president Crane Kenney conducted at the Cubs Convention showed a 50-50 split on the idea of a video scoreboard. The hand-operated scoreboard in center field is protected by landmark provisions, but the Cubs would find another spot for a video board.
Asked about balancing traditions with winning, Ricketts said, “I don’t think you have to touch any traditions to get better and take it to the next level. I can’t think of any place where there’s a real conflict with that. I think in the field at Wrigley, there might be some (tradition) down the line where we make the decision — ‘This is the way it’s always been, but we can do it better.’”
The majority of Cubs players polled on the issue were in favor of a video board either in or outside of Wrigley.
“That’d be good for the fans and good for us,” Aramis Ramirez said. “I don’t think it would change the ambience. That would be good for everybody.”
Ryan Dempster agreed, as long as the Cubs put it “in the right spot.”
“But where’s the right spot?” he asked. “A rooftop? That’d be cool. But that would ruin my tradition of getting the rookies to look to the bleachers, (saying) ‘Hey, check out the replay …’”
Ryan Theriot was in the minority. Theriot believes a Jumbotron could change the ballpark forever, adding extraneous noise, doughnut races and a “Kiss Cam.”
“If you’re going to do that, you might as well change the whole park and modernize everything,” Theriot said. “The way it is now is the way it’s been for years, and the way it’s meant to be, so you might as well leave it the way it is. I know things change and times change, but from a historical standpoint, that Wrigley vibe, that feel … a Jumbotron would change everything.”
Others don’t mind a little bit of change.
“It’s great to have the ambience on the field, but I think a Jumbotron would be pretty beneficial,” Tom Gorzelanny said. “There already is so much history with the stadium itself, so to add on something like that, I don’t think it would take away from anything.
“You’d get the fans into it a lot more, and then you can see the replay yourself instead of hearing people in the upper deck who see the TVs and hearing what they think of it.”
Jeff Samardzija, who played football at Jumbotron-free Notre Dame Stadium, is conflicted.
“You like to see whether the call was right or wrong, or if it was just a sweet play to watch again,” he said. “You can kind of look back and see the little TVs up on the balcony. I think it’d be nice.
“I’d say get rid of the Horseshoe Casino (rooftop) sign and put one up on that building. That way it’s not even in the field. Or maybe put two up by the lights on top of the awning. Nothing gaudy like Yankee Stadium, where the Jumbotron is as big as the whole stadium. You can keep the history and the aura of Wrigley … but it is 2010.”
Derrek Lee was in favor of a Jumbotron, but said it wouldn’t be a priority for him.
“I want music,” Lee said. “Real music, you know, not organ music. When I walk up to the plate, I want to hear the song I want to hear. I’d be for that before the Jumbotron. That’d really be fun.”