Cubs marketing blitz: 365 days of Wrigley

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Cubs marketing blitz: 365 days of Wrigley

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
7:21 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The Bears havent played at Wrigley Field since 1970, and the stadium hasnt hosted a college football game in 72 years. Northwestern and Illinois havent even practiced there yet, and already youre wondering: Whats next?

That depends on how Saturday plays out, and the financing the Cubs ultimately structure around their long-range vision for a ballpark that is nearly a century old.

The Cubs have been lobbying the commissioners office for the All-Star Game, something team president Crane Kenney called a massive undertaking that our facility today probably isnt suited for.

Some 400 million later the proposed combination of state-issued bonds and private investment by the Ricketts family Wrigley Field could be hosting that game and aggressively bidding for larger events.

The Cubs already draw three million fans a year. Realistically they cant sell more tickets or significantly raise prices.

Chairman Tom Ricketts essentially acknowledged as much while trying to defend his plan to renovate Wrigley Field. He projects that the teams annual amusement-tax contributions around 16 million wont increase beyond inflation without major upgrades.

As Ricketts explained: Were getting to the point: How much more ticket-price power do we have in a ballpark without the kind of amenities that so many modern ballparks have?

So the Cubs are looking for ways to make money without totally changing the stadiums feel or alienating their fan base while easing political and neighborhood concerns. Chief sales and marketing officer Wally Hayward said the team is still exploring just how many non-baseball events Wrigley Field can hold each year.

Were limited because of the beautiful space that we have here and the ivy and the rooftops on putting traditional signage in like other stadiums, Hayward said. We dont want to do that. Were not taking the ivy down, so its critical to generate new revenue by bringing incremental events to Wrigley.

Kenney said concerts require so much advance work that the team needs to be on an extended road trip. When the Dave Matthews Band performed two nights at Wrigley Field in the middle of September, the Cubs went 12 days between home games, their longest stretch all season.

Cubs executives are open to the idea of more football, as well as soccer at Wrigley Field.

On Saturday Army and Notre Dame will play the first football game at the new Yankee Stadium, which will also stage the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30.

The Big Ten, which is headquartered in Chicago, seems like a natural partner if Wrigley Field ever hosted a bowl. After Saturday, Northwestern will evaluate whether its worth moving another home game from Evanston.

We really wanted to do this, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said. We havent come to the end to really assess what we felt the things we liked, the things we didnt like. So to call it an annual event I would say is premature. We want to see what this looks like and how it goes.

This is an experiment on several levels. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sheffield Avenue will be shut down between Addison Street and Waveland Avenue. There will be live music, multiple television screens to watch college football and several areas to eat and drink.

Thats replicating how the Boston Red Sox use Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park and previewing what the Cubs want to do with the Triangle development next to a remodeled Wrigley Field.

Sooner or later, youll likely see these street festivals before Cubs games.

Lets take one step at a time. This is a great test for us to really create a fanfest out on Sheffield, said Hayward, a Northwestern graduate. Ideally, it all goes well and the neighbors and community like it. We would love to try to do it around some of our marquee Cubs games in 2011.

Its also an opportunity for Cubs management to connect with corporate sponsors.

Workers on Wednesday morning put up more green Allstate panels in front of the outfield wall covered in brown ivy. Valspar had already been used to paint the marquee purple. Thats the backdropadvertisement when ESPNs College GameDay is shot Saturday from the McDonalds parking lot.

All this will make certain Cubs fans uneasy, especially in the year of the Toyota sign, BP Cup and yellow noodle. Maybe some things are sacred, but with a Taco Bell down the street, Wrigleyvilles not exactly Vatican City.

In the end, the Cubs want to make Wrigley Field a year-round destination, and they say these revenues go toward baseball operations.

Thats why ownership made the calculation to feature board member Todd Ricketts on Undercover Boss. The chance to reach all those families thinking about a summer vacation outweighed the potential to look silly.

With that CBS reality show and some 150 media credentials issued for Saturdays Northwestern-Illinois game the Cubs are guaranteed to stay in the headlines.

Weve been busy. Its been a good offseason, Hayward said. The Cubs and Wrigley are an entertainment brand, not just about sports. Its really a lifestyle and entertainment brand. And we can keep the excitement going 365 days out of the year beyond Cubs baseball.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

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USA TODAY

Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst

Dan Muller didn't even have to say anything.

The Illinois State men's basketball coach certainly didn't want his team to lose focus, not with what the game against Bradley meant for the Redbirds' NCAA tournament chances. 

But as Bradley mounted a comeback in the second half of what initially appeared to be a blowout, senior point guard Paris Lee stepped up and delivered all that needed to be said.

"Paris led us like he always does," senior forward Deontae Hawkins said. "The defense was slacking later in the game and Paris called us out and told us, 'We're too old to keep following our old habits.'"

[RELATED —​ MVC tripleheader on CSN Wednesday night, including ISU-Missouri State at 8 p.m.]

The Redbirds wound up cruising to a 64-50 win over Bradley to improve their record in the Missouri Valley Conference to 13-1 (21-5 overall) and Lee took home MVC player of the week honors for his effort.

It was all the more important given the audience at Redbird Arena Saturday night.

At halftime, Illinois State honored the 1998 team, the last Redbirds squad to make it to the NCAA Tournament back when Muller was filling an important role as a player instead of a coach.

Now in his fifth year at the helm of ISU, Muller has improved the Redbirds' record in the MVC in each season. With four conference games left — including Wednesday night's tilt against Missouri State on CSN — Muller has already set a new high mark with 13 conference wins.

And he's been leaning heavily on Lee to do so.

Muller said Lee's impassioned mid-game speech to his teammates has become a common sight this year as Lee — a native of Maywood, Ill. just outside Chicago — has grown more comfortable in a leadership role.

"Paris is pretty locked in," Muller said. "He's been a coach on that floor all year; he has been since he's been here [at ISU]. That's one of the areas he's probably improved the most over the last four — his leadership, his competitive spirit, his comfort level and taking control of the team."

Lee admitted his transformation into a leader was not always a natural fit.

"I feel like I had no other choice but to start maturing because we had a lot of new guys on the team and a lot of younger guys looking up to me," he said. "So I had to. I was kinda forced to grow up. 

"In previous years, I've always had teammates that were able to take the load from me, talk, do everything I should do. But this year, I had no choice but to [step up as a leader]."

Lee is all in — down to his red-tipped dreadlocks that he joked gives him more swag and a pair of sick red Jordans — on getting the Redbirds back to the NCAA Tournament in his final season. He's already set a new career high in assists, thriving as a playmaker/facilitator.

"I'm very hungry, man," Lee said. "I'm gonna continue to play the right way, not try to do too much. Just try to do the right thing to help my team win."

Wednesday on CSN: Missouri Valley with three games on CSN/CSN+

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Wednesday on CSN: Missouri Valley with three games on CSN/CSN+

The Missouri Valley has a busy day night of basketball on CSN and CSN+ on Wednesday night.

It starts at 6 p.m. with Southern Illinois hosting Wichita State on CSN. After that game on CSN, Illinois State will travel to Missouri State in a game that will air live at 8 p.m.

CSN+ will also air another live Missouri Valley matchup at 7 p.m. as Northern Iowa hosts Bradley.

[RELATED - Chicago native Paris Lee doing all he can to make sure Illinois State's NCAA Tournament bubble doesn't burst]

Southern Illinois (14-13, 7-7) is trying to compete for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament as they get a big opportunity to host a conference leader. Senior guard Mike Rodriguez leads the Salukis in points (12.9 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg).

Wichita State (23-4, 13-1) are not only fighting for the conference regular season title but also a potential NCAA tournament bid. The Shockers are a balanced group led by Markis McDuffie (11.8 ppg). 

The second game on CSN has Illinois State going to Missouri State.

The Redbirds (21-5, 13-1) will have a tough one on the road as they only beat the Bears by three in early January at home. Deontae Hawkins is leading the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game as Illinois State tries to adjust to playing without MiKyle McIntosh. 

Missouri State (15-12, 6-8) has lost three straight games. Junior forward Alize Johnson leads the Bears in scoring at 15.4 points per game. 

The third game of the night will be on CSN+ as Northern Iowa is hosting Bradley at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (13-12, 8-6) have won three straight games as they've made a push into third place in the Valley. Senior Jeremy Morgan (15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) is having a strong season as he's looking like an all-conference player.

Bradley (9-18, 4-10) beat Northern Iowa, 72-61, the last two time these teams met in Peoria as the Braves have lost two straight games. Freshman guard Darrell Brown leads the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game.