Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 2:50 p.m. Updated: 6:50 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
Tom Ricketts arrived at Wrigley Field by 6 a.m. The Cubs chairman began touring the bars around Clark and Addison, appearing on the radio shows broadcasting remotely on Opening Day.
Ricketts joked about needing to take the edge off, but he says that hes far more comfortable now that his familys entering their second season of ownership. He thinks he has a better grasp of the business and the issues facing Wrigley Field.
Friday marked the 96th home opener at Wrigley Field. Ricketts has admitted that if theres one regret looking back on his first year-plus in charge, its the way the Cubs presented their case for state-issued bonds.
Ricketts didnt get into specifics when asked about the public component to any future stadium renovations.
Thats a discussion that were having right now theres not that much more to it, Ricketts said. Itll take some time, but well come up with some good ideas. I think well have a good solution at some point. But theres no timetable and theres no time pressure.
Money was not an issue when the Cubs released Carlos Silva this week. General manager Jim Hendry indicated that Ricketts was fully aware it could end that way with Silva, the pitcher the Cubs took on to get rid of Milton Bradley.
Silva didnt live up to his contract, antagonized teammates and ripped the organization on his way out, but will still earn 11.5 million this season.
It doesnt matter what a guy makes when it comes to roster decisions, Ricketts said. We knew it was a possibility that there might not be a spot for him. Thats just the way it is. You got to have the best team on the field thats what counts.
Dealing with overpaid players is just one part of what Ricketts described as a three-dimensional education in owning the team.
Team Marketing Report released its annual survey on Friday and had the Cubs (46.90) trailing only the Red Sox (53.38) and Yankees (51.83) in terms of average season ticket prices.
Last years study found the Cubs to have the most expensive average season ticket (52.56), though management has disputed the methodology.
Overall, Cubs executives say, ticket prices at Wrigley Field have essentially remained flat since last season. Variables like date and opponent have inflated costs for certain games. There is a new pricing tier and a much larger inventory of premium seats in 2011.
The Cubs still hope to lure fans to a new Arizona complex by 2014, but they havent chosen an architect yet. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick got rave reviews and proved to be a huge draw in the Cactus League.
The Cubs toured the facility and took notes, but probably wont build something quite as opulent in Mesa.
Everyone saw how nice the new Rockies-Diamondbacks place was, Ricketts said. Maybe we wont have the same kind of budget they do, but hopefully well create a good spring break gameday experience like that."
It is a delicate balance between tradition and progress in virtually anything the Cubs try to accomplish.
So for now, the Cubs are returning to organ music before each players at-bat. Wrigley Field has also opened up to local businesses like Vienna Beef, DAgostinos Pizza, Stanley's Kitchen & Tap and The Fifty50 as concession options this season.
But fans are most concerned about the on-field product. The experts see the Cubs as a team that might finish in the middle of the division and would be lucky to stay above .500.
People are basing their predictions on the performance that we had last year, which was very disappointing, Ricketts said. But this is not the same team. We dont have the same manager. We have a different type of energy this year. I think that the players are ready to go and I think Mike Quade will have them playing their best.
All along, the Ricketts family which also bought a stake in Comcast SportsNet when they finalized the deal with Tribune Co. in Oct. 2009 has stressed that they will be around for generations. They are looking forward to many more Opening Days.
Its great to see the neighborhood blossom and the park come alive, Ricketts said. Game on.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.