Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
Cubs executives measure their building against the great cathedrals of sports Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, the Rose Bowl.
For Ron Santo, it was the religion that he believed kept him alive all those years as his body began to fail. And the spontaneous shrines that appeared on the gates of Wrigley Field when Santo died last month will take a permanent form.
To honor his memory, players will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. And a Santo statue will be unveiled outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10, chairman Tom Ricketts announced Saturday at the Cubs Convention.
Santo shirts could be spotted all around the Hilton Chicago this weekend. It will be weird for those fans to look up and see someone else in the broadcast booth, or turn on their radio and not hear that familiar voice.
The transition wont be easy, but the Cubs and WGN Radio are getting deeper into their search process for the next analyst.
Team president Crane Kenney interviewed one candidate on Saturday, and indicated that the names being mentioned as possible replacements are accurate. Keith Moreland, Dave Otto and Doug Glanville are thought to be in the mix. The expectation is that Santos replacement will be named before spring training.
The future at Clark and Addison
Santo connected with listeners because he had such strong feelings for a place that hadnt changed much since his playing days.
Any idea about Wrigley Field seems to be met with resistance from some corner of the fan base or community. When one fan complained about recorded pop music replacing the organ before each at-bat, Ricketts said that a player came to ownership with the suggestion early last season, as a way to shake the team out of a slump.
Inevitably Wrigley Field will become more modern. AT&T is partnering with the Cubs and investing 5 million to make the stadium a wireless hotspot.
The concept of a video board so long as it doesnt disturb the center-field landscape is gaining traction. Sixty percent of fans surveyed by the Cubs liked that idea, though theres still no obvious place to put it.
The Cubs have grand designs for a renovated Wrigley Field, but they are still figuring out how to pay for it.
Vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano who once worked as a special assistant in the White House continues to talk with officials on the city, county and state levels about different financing techniques.
Looking back on his first year-plus of ownership, Ricketts identified one glaring mistake how his group rolled out a proposal to renovate the stadium with the help of state-issued bonds last November.
Ricketts said we lost control of the dialogue a little bit, but Kenney reminded everyone that it took 18 months to two years for the Cubs to lobby for another public-private partnership and a new facility in Mesa, Ariz.
Finding a balance
Until those improvements are made, Ricketts doesnt think the Cubs will get an All-Star Game. Team executives continue to point toward the Red Sox, who they say arent subject to an amusement tax, and have put up 67 advertisements inside Fenway Park.
Signage is one way to continue growing incremental revenue. The Cubs also remain open to hosting more concerts though no non-baseball events have been finalized yet for 2011 and even college football despite the bad press one end zone generated.
It did not go unnoticed in the Cubs executive offices that Farmers Insurance will reportedly be paying around 400 million (20 million annually) for naming rights at the proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles.
The marquee, the scoreboard and the ivy are historical landmarks protected by the city. Building a statue for a beloved figure such as Santo is an easy call. There are other tough choices to make around Wrigley Field.
Can we think outside the box? And how much do you want to sacrifice progress for tradition? Kenney asked. Another way of looking at that question is: So youre going to walk away from 400 million because you dont want to sell the naming rights? Where does that money come from? It comes from football games, concerts, everything creative we come up with.
Should you just give up on that and build a new stadium somewhere? (No), were going to try to fight it out where we are and were going to protect the traditions that mean so much to all of us.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.