The Chicago Cubs are employing a classic sports franchise owner tactic in its effort to get approval to renovate 99-year-old Wrigley Field: the veiled threat
The team is looking to add signage to the outfield, which would block the view from the rooftops across the street. Rooftop owners, who routinely stuff local politicians’ pockets with campaign cash, are the most vocal in the efforts to stop the team from killing their source of income. The rooftop owners share 17 percent of their revenue with the team.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts presented plans on Wednesday detailing the proposed improvements to Wrigley. When reporters asked him about the team’s recent struggles to gain city approval, he responded:
"I'm not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don't have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we're going to have to consider moving. It's as simple as that."
A similar tactic helped White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf persuade the city, state and taxpayers to help build U.S. Cellular field. Reinsdorf famously threatened to move the team to Florida, and St. Petersburg even built them a stadium that would eventually host the Tampa Bay Rays.
From a PR standpoint, there’s no better way to vilify your opponent than threatening to move one of the most storied—albeit more for futility—franchises in major sports.
However, Chicago Business Journal
writer and former Chicago Sun-Times
staffer Lewis Lazare called Ricketts’ threat “silly”:
“Just to demonstrate how inept the Ricketts are in the realm of public relations, Tom Ricketts quickly reversed course after making the threat at a City Club of Chicago breakfast this morning and said he fully intends to try to work things out with the Wrigleyville neighborhood and City Hall.
“Of course Ricketts will try to work it out.
“He's got no other choice. The Cubs aren't going anywhere, and Tom Ricketts and the rest of the Ricketts family knows that.”
So perhaps the veiled threat isn’t such a fantastic PR tactic after all.