The Chicago Cubs have been following the Fenway Park blueprint save one major difference: the Ricketts sought public money for the project. Will that doom Wrigley Field upgrades?
Emulating what Boston has done isn’t a bad move for the Cubs: under the John Henry ownership group, the Red Sox have put winners on the field thanks to a rejuvenated farm system and sensitive, well-contemplated upgrades to Fenway Park. These upgrades, whether it be the addition of Green Monster seats or a new good court and restrooms behind the right-field seating, have augmented the historic qualities of Fenway Park and not detracted from the fan experience. The core Fenway Park experience has been retained.
So it’s no surprise that the Cubs front office discussed ballpark changes with Janet Marie Smith, hired D’Agostino Izzo Quirk (which implemented many of the Fenway Park upgrades) and brought in Theo Epstein (involved in Fenway Park upgrades as the Red Sox GM) to run the team.
The Cubs did one thing the Red Sox never did: they asked the city to upgrade the ballpark. Like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field is privately owned. The Red Sox owners undertook all ballpark improvements on their own dime: they brought in the appropriate city and state officials ro review changes, but public money to benefit a private venture was never an agenda item. The Ricketts ownership, on the other hand, have made several attempts to secure public financing and funding improvements. Almost succeeded, too, before patriarch Joe Ricketts’ right-wing political activities alienated Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had been working on public assistance for the Cubs. The resulting kerfuffle brought home a larger point: if the Ricketts family has $10 million to run a smear campaign against Barack Obama, they surely have the money to pay for Wrigley Field upgrades.
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