Will Wrigley Field still qualify as the Friendly Confines in four years?
The Cubs are working on a $500 million deal with the city that will allow team ownership to give Wrigley and some surrounding property a massive makeover. The plan calls for new signage, including a JumboTron in left field. The Ricketts family also is set on adding luxury suites, fancy dining areas and more night games.
Also in the works: a new parking garage, a seven-story hotel across the street at the McDonald's property, an office/retail plaza and more.
In other words, the Cubs' home base will mimic the kind of contrived, cookie cutter ballpark you see just about anywhere else in America. The Wrigleyville neighborhood, meanwhile, will lose more of its charm and turn even more into a raucous, upscale suburb within the city.
Why? Because the Cubs' billionaire bosses say they need revenue, despite the fact that Forbes just called the Cubs the most profitable franchise in the league with $32 million in operating income last year. So instead of gently preserving a historic landmark, they want to transform its character. Not because it's necessary but because, well, I'm not sure. Maybe for people like the Rickettses, maximizing profits is the American Way.
It's the kind of story you see on a "Real Housewives" reality show. Rich Guy isn't satisfied with his wife anymore. She's aging naturally, and the wrinkles are setting in. Sure, she's charming, popular and people love her the way she is, but Rich Guy looks around at other rich guys and notices most of them have young, smoking hot trophy wives. Thinking he can do better, Rich Guy tries to improve her looks with money. Botox. Breast implants. A tummy tuck.
But after this improvement project, everyone realizes she's lost her specialness. She doesn't have the same ingratiating personality anymore. She's feels like just another trophy wife.
I'm worried that after the Rickettses are done with their massive project, our once charming neighborhood dive will become another boring entertainment mega mall—a baseball theme park designed to squeeze more dollars out of all of us for the sake of an imagined bottom line.
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.