Cubs waiting for their Fenway plan, or a Miami game-changer

Cubs waiting for their Fenway plan, or a Miami game-changer
April 19, 2012, 11:02 pm
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MIAMI Theo Epstein who wasnt initially invited to take part in Fenway Parks 100th anniversary ceremony on Friday took the high road and released a statement after the snub:

I hope tomorrow is a great day for Red Sox fans and for the whole organization. I have plans to be at the Cubs game tomorrow, but I will take a moment to toast Fenway along with everyone else who loves that ballpark.

As general manager, Epstein witnessed the golden age on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and began a streak of sellouts thats about to hit 700 games in their remodeled ballpark.

It wasnt long before that when people were talking about tearing down Fenway Park and building a new waterfront stadium. The Cubs are still waiting for their game-changer.

Taking in all the eye candy around Marlins Park, you wondered what a renovated Wrigley Field would mean for the Cubs. Chairman Tom Ricketts and the teams high-level business executives were curious enough on Wednesday to tour the stadium.

It effects our on-field product, Epstein said Thursday. In a renovated Wrigley, wed put our players in a better position to succeed because they can prepare better.

They can take care of their bodies better with a modern clubhouse, a modern training room. A modern BP tunnel, a modern video room just helps the players prepare like they need to.

Usually, a renovated ballpark leads to more revenues that we can pour back into the major-league team.

The Marlins knew they had to make a splash when they moved into their new ballpark in Little Havana.

Ozzie Guillen took his talents to South Beach, and if he said something off-the-cuff about Fidel Castro, well, thats the cost of doing business.

The Marlins made a run at Albert Pujols during the winter meetings last December, a big name that could be put up in lights with the same wattage as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

In a shopping spree that stunned the industry, the Marlins wound up committing almost 200 million to Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

If you play this out at Clark and Addison, you can envision a five-year plan where Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are all in their prime. The Cubs Way is producing players. The team is rolling in new money from Wrigley 2.0 and the changing landscape for local television deals.

It will be harder to justify a middle-of-the-pack payroll, which is where USA Today had the Cubs in its 2012 salary survey (even if the accounting isnt exact and there were reasons for scaling back). Last winter, Pujols and Prince Fielder were the right players at the wrong time, but this is where forces could collide for the megadeal.

Rahm Emanuel caught the Cubs off-guard just before Opening Day, when the mayor announced negotiations were in the final stages.

The Sun-Times has reported on Emanuels Fenway Plan, where public and private financing could fuel the renovation, which could lead to more advertising, a possible Jumbotron and street fairs on Sheffield and Waveland.

We dont know when its all going to be finalized and finished, manager Dale Sveum said. Were still two, three, four years away from major things being done. But it means a lot when you get a new clubhouse and just batting cages.

The more money you crank out, the more resources you have, obviously, for free agency or whatever it might be in the draft. It means a lot to the organization when youre trying to get somewhere and all that stuff comes together. Its huge.

The Cubs wont have the blank canvas the Marlins got on the site of the old Orange Bowl. Not when a Toyota sign or an Under Armour logo on the outfield doors generates neighborhood controversy.

If Wrigley Field is a cathedral, then what does that make Marlins Park?

The retractable-roof stadium looks like a spaceship. Girls in bikinis hang out in the pool behind the left-field wall. Techno beats pump from the Clevelander, trying to recreate a South Beach nightclub.

The walls are colored lime green, and the players wear bright orange jerseys. In between innings, cheerleaders dance on the field and a mascot fires a gun that shoots T-shirts into the crowd.

Theres definitely a lot of Miami in here, said Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad, a former Marlins first-round pick who grew up in South Florida.

There will be a lot of Chicago in how this deal is cut. You can argue about the politics, but theres no denying that it should make this a destination for free agents, and take the team to another level.

Its not just about that, Epstein said. Its also potentially a win for the fans, being more comfortable, and a win for the surrounding areas, continuing to keep Wrigley as a prime tourist attraction. So it could be a win-win-win. But it certainly has a chance to impact the on-field product in a positive way.