Time to Tear Down Wrigley Field?

Why the Cubs shouldn't receive any stadium welfare


Wrigley Field: It's one of the most iconic stadiums in America, with a distinctive urban location, nearly a century of history, and an old-fashioned ambience. It's the best thing about the Chicago Cubs since Ernie Banks. But, as was once the case with Ernie Banks, maybe it's time to admit that Wrigley can't go on forever.

That's the obvious conclusion to draw from the organization's request for taxpayers to "invest" up to $300 million in the park. The Ricketts family spent $845 million to acquire the Cubs from Tribune Co. last year, the highest price ever paid for a Major League Baseball franchise. But now the new owners find they can't afford the upkeep on their elderly home, which runs about $10 million a year.

So they want the state, county, and city to divert a share of future entertainment taxes to help fund a major renovation. Never mind that the state of Illinois is broke and the city of Chicago has a record budget deficit.

Chairman Tom Ricketts says the owners can't justify putting more money into the park and the adjacent area "unless you know Wrigley is going to be there." Left unspoken is the prospect that it won't be there—that the Cubs will move to new quarters in the suburbs or raze the old park and put up something suited to the needs of a 21st-century team.

Not a bad idea. Wrigley is attractive and charming in many ways, but it's like driving a vintage car: After a while, the novelty is not enough to justify the antiquated design. The ivy-covered walls and manually operated scoreboard have to be balanced against the cramped concourses, primitive restrooms, modest kitchen facilities, and obstructed views.

To even think of replacing the nostalgia-drenched ballpark is heresy to diehard Cubs fans. But Yankee Stadium was even richer in history and tradition—winning tradition, by the way—when the Yankees abandoned it in 2008.

This year, the Dallas Cowboys managed to suppress sentiment long enough to demolish Texas Stadium, probably the most recognizable facility in the National Football League and just 39 years old. Ricketts envisions playing in Wrigley for another 50 years. In what universe does that make sense?

He argues this would be a no-lose deal for the public because all the tax revenue to be diverted to the Cubs is money that would not be generated without their presence in Wrigley. "Those are dollars that wouldn't have been spent anywhere," he said in a meeting with the Tribune editorial board.

Wrong. "These things may affect where people spend, but not what they spend," says University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson. People allocate a certain share of their budgets for entertainment. Absent the Cubs, they will go to movies, concerts, museums, White Sox games, Six Flags Great America, or Navy Pier.

But it's not as though the Cubs would be absent. Blessed with one of the biggest markets in America, and fans who turn out win or lose, they are not about to pick up and move to Nashville.

So they should be thinking of how to make the best of their location. A new park would rid the Cubs of their maintenance headaches, while providing them better ways to relieve fans of cash—lots of luxury boxes, better dining, new shops, and diversions.

It would allow the team to hire better players and pamper them in style. The architect could lovingly re-create the treasured features of the existing stadium, while omitting the shortcomings.

I am not immune to the appeal of Wrigley, though I was wearing a Cardinals cap the last time I went. But I am immune to the appeal of using tax dollars to enrich a private business. If you own a building that is falling apart, you should either sell it, spend the money to fix it up, or admit it's not worth saving—not ask your neighbors to pick up the tab.

The Cubs can command ample resources. They have the third-highest ticket prices in baseball, and they outdraw 23 other clubs.

Sure, lots of other teams have gotten government help with their parks, including the Bears and the Sox. But not only were they also bad deals for the public, they were made in an era when our governments had plenty of money to waste.

That day, you may have noticed, is over. Could be Wrigley Field's time has passed as well.


NEXT: That Mockingbird Don't Sing

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If I pony up the cash for this, I’m naming it Fartnoise Park. LMAO


    1. Sure, lots of other teams have gotten government help with their parks, including the Bears and the Sox. But not only were they also bad deals for the public, they were made in an era when our governments had plenty of money to waste.

      Thank god that never changes.

  2. Fuck you, Chapman. I’m not going to even read the article.

    Wrigley is America’s Pantheon. It will remain.

    1. However, I am against the city giving them $300 million. I’m just saying.

      1. I agree ev. The question to Chapman is how does a historic stadium like Wrigley not justify costs, but a brand new stadium in the suburbs does? Luxury boxes are nice, but only if you sell them. The apartment seats surrounding Wrigley make a lot of money during the season as well, something that wouldn’t happen if the Cubs moved.

        I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything more from a Cardinals fan >.>

        1. Jeebus, we went through all this shit a decade ago in Detroit (Tiger Stadium was a better place to watch a ball game than Wrigley Field and we’ve actually been to, and won some World Championships). The government taxpayers ponied up the cash to subsidize the billionaire owner and his millionaire employees.

          Is there anybody stupid enough to believe that pro sports will disappear if we don’t subsidize them?

          Take the goddam teams out of my city if you can’t pay for your own place of business.

          1. I, like ev, am not making the case that the taxpayers should pay for this. I’m asking why Chapman thinks it is more advantageous to build an entirely new stadium than to pay for renovations to this one, which is a landmark in the city of Chicago.

            I think it’s a case of the owners testing the waters and trying to get other people to pay for their shit if they can, which unfortunately they probably will. It’s a terrible and incredibly dumb cycle, and I do not support it. Chicagoans love the Cubs (unless they’re those idiots from the South Side–no racist) and I think people would much rather donate their money freely to some Support Wrigley Field fund than to have their tax dollars go. Although the argument should be made that the ticket prices and concessions are so expensive because they are supposed to pay for stadium upkeep.

        2. Those bars are still making money in October. Don’t BS yourself.

      2. Why not build a simular and improved field called Wrigley Field (by the same neon sign). Build it adjacent to O’Hare so that its easy to get to by people out of town or people on the highway, include a mall and a hotel, it were an extension of the O’Hare mall and both used private security better yet.

    2. Just have to compliment you on the brilliance of your post there EV. BTW, if Wrigley Field is America’s Pantheon, we should get out of the Pantheon business and do something a bit less challenging.

      1. What the fuck are you talking about?

        I’m pro-Wrigley, anti-subsidy.

        Have you ever been to that ballpark? It’s a fucking cathedral.

        What the fuck are you talking about?

        1. Irony: Referring to world’s biggest gay bar as a cathedral.

          1. Hey, here’s a dose of reason for you, if it’s not your team or city then DON’T FUCKING WORRY ABOUT IT!

    3. Wrigley stinks to high heaven of fried onions.

      1. That’s the crowd.

      2. I like fried onions. But not on my waffles.

        1. I dunno….pile some potatoes and fried onions on a waffle, syrup-to-taste, roll up and secure with a tooth pick. Then slather in butter. Yeah, I think that would work.

          1. I think a waffle would be hard to roll. A pancake would probably work better in this case.

            1. Lacks structural integrity. Plus the square shape makes for a better wrapper. You’d have stuff spilling out of the pancake variation right off the bat. So, unless you make some strong, square pancakes….I’d just go with the waffle.

              (just realized you might be talking about homemade waffles. those probably wouldn’t roll-up very well. I was thinking a frozen type, which are much more pliable yet still stronger than the typical pancake.)

              1. needs a sausage or a brat (or a sausage and a brat)…instead of rollup, use two and make a sandwich

                1. You know what would go great on that? A ham sandwich.. In between two donuts.

          2. You’re under arrest.

            Put down the unhealthy food and come out with your hands where we can see them or we will open fire.

            That’s right. If you don’t put down the food that we have determined is bad for your health, we will give you terminal lead poisoning.

      3. Your urine smells like fried onions?

  3. But Yankee Stadium was even richer in history and tradition?winning tradition, by the way?when the Yankees abandoned it in 2008.

    I was wondering when that would come up. Nicely done.

    The real question is, will there be a follow-up article on the outcome?

    1. What Chapman neglects to mention is that the new Yankee stadium was funded by taxpayer dollars – and it ran them over $1 billion.

      1. True, but inaccurate. The total costs of the stadium was $1 billion. Depending on what you count as stadium aid, the state and city government spent $300 million on the stadium. This consisted of bond guaranteed, loans to build new parking garages and a new commuter rail station by the stadium. And, to be fair, I didn’t have a real issue with the train station. There wasn’t one there before, despite the tracks running directly next to the stadium, and despite highway tie-ups so dramatic that it made it impossible to respond to emergency calls on game days due to the traffic. Simply put, the government wasted money, but the actual building itself was built with Yankee money.

        1. We can’t let the truth get in the way of Yankee hate, can we?

          1. come on everyone say it with me, you know how it goes…YANKEE’s SUCK

        2. I heard closer to $600 million in taxpayer dollars, and that was 50% of total costs. I can’t remember who they were, but it was a short video by two New York fat guys; I think Reason posted it earlier this year.

          (they are the same guys that created the poor man’s big mac)

          1. Your estimate is definitely closer to what I read than what Todd says. Todd’s account sounds more like what they said it was going to be in advance – before the costs ballooned.

  4. I’m confident the Cubs can go another 50 years without a world series win in the old stadium. Why build a new loosers ballpark when the old one does the job just fine?

  5. There is (so far as I know, anyway) only one major sports franchise in the United States with a reasonable ownership structure; the Green Bay Packers.

    Were I a Chicago area Pol, I would propose that if the taxpayers buy the cubs a $300 million stadium, then the taxpayers should get $300 million worth of equity in the club.

    Doubt they’d take me up on it.

    1. I’m not sure people would be dead set again it. Considering that many Cubs fans root for the Bears, and thus are intimately familiar with their rival to the north, I think you could sell them on a situation like that. It’s not unprecedented for a government to own a sports team. The minor-league Columbus Clipper baseball team is owned by the city.

      1. Yeah. But the NHL hockey arena in Columbus was built with private money. It can be done.

        1. The NHL team is clamouring for public money now.

        2. +1
          They first tried to fleece the taxpayers, but we said no thanks. Then, in a miracle, Nationwide Insurance came up with Plan B, and paid for it themselves. Surely they didn’t have Plan B ready just in case…

      2. Actually,the Columbus Clippers are owned by Franklin County.

      3. Compared to the usual “You buy the stadium and we give you bupkiss” deal, I’m sure the People would love it. The Cubs – or whatever slime sucking invertebrate owns them – are another matter, and there lies the hitch in my plan.

        Also; I recall hearing that when the old owner of the Washington Redskins kicked of a decade or more back, a group of local movers and shakers tried to put together a non-profit group like the one that owns the Packers to buy the team. As I understand it they were told by the NFL “The Packers are an endless headache because they are owned by a non-profit, and we can’t push them around without coming off like the guys who mugged a Nun. No way are we ever letting another club b set up that way.”

        Maybe the MLB organization wouldn’t feel that way, but it isn’t encouraging.

  6. It seems that the only thing that can go on forever is Reason, thanks to an endless stream of contributions from dimwits. Does Gillespie buy the leather jackets at Wal-Mart?

      (Come on, Frenchie)
      (Snap it!)
      (Come on, Frenchie)
      (Snap it!)
      (Come on, Frenchie)
      (Snap it!)
      (Come on, Frenchie)
      (Not a speck of cereal!)
      (Come on, Frenchie)
      (Nothing but the best for my dog!)

      1. My python boot is too tight

    2. Max, Honey, please get off the computer now, so I can drive you to see your counselor.

      1. Feeeed meeeee!

  7. Perhaps the Rickets should ask the Wrigley gum company to pony up the money to keep the name. Right now it seems like that is free advertising and $300 million over 30 years is peanuts for a large corporation.

    1. Just auction off the naming rights. Wrigley Field by any other name would smell, um, would be the same. Of course, X Field would always be like Myanmar: “the Field formerly known as Wrigley”.

      1. Eh. Everyone would still call it Wrigley Field. I think sponsors are catching on to this.

        But don’t tear down the place. I have a weakness where landmarks are concerned. I’m still angry about Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

        1. Memorial Stadium was broken down and ugly (Kinda like Baltimore itself…)

  8. Texas Stadim more recognizablethan Lambeau Field, or Soldier Field? Pshaw.

    The investor-owned (but “not for profit”) Packers do play in a gubmint-owned facility.

    What sucks is, how does an Illinois pol turn down the Cubs, while the Sox play in their taxpayer-built ballpark?


    1. how does an Illinois pol turn down the Cubs, while the Sox play in their taxpayer-built ballpark

      If Boston jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? I thought not. Now, a politician on the other hand….GERONIMO!!!!!

      1. White Sox, not Red Sox.

        1. I knew I should’ve wiki’d both Sox before guessing the city. I don’t even know how many touchdowns it takes to get a homerun, so cut me some slack.

    2. Solder Field was more recognizable until the last renovation turned its fa?ade into a spaceship.

      The Packers, as always, showed how to do it right.

    3. I believe the part of the rationale for the Cellular Field renovation was that it would create economic growth on the south side. Of course this has not happened.

      On the other hand, Wrigleyville, (yes, that is what this part of Chicago is really called) is doing fine, economically.

  9. Sorry, but you are doomed. You might as well lie back and enjoy the $300M-job they are gonna lay on you.

    Here in sunny MN, we just elected a fiscal no-nonsense GOP house/senate for the first time since 1972. They are already thinking about how to give money to the Vikings.

    1) a poll showing 70+% of people don’t want it.
    2) Hated coach
    3) Underachieving team
    4) Fact that without the Twins the Metrodome no longer needs to be a multipurpose stadium.

    1. Sorry forgot to add the link to the local story about our GOP legislators rushing to give the money to the Vikes

    2. They are already thinking about how to give money to the Vikings.

      At least we think before giving the money!

      And why do you hate Minnesota?

    3. 5) Hated crybaby quarterback.

    4. It’s alright if we piss on another Indian treaty to pay for it though.

    5. As an Illinoisian, 3 things give me hope, Jimbo:

      1) Chicago is broke.

      2) Cook County isn’t doing much better.

      3) The state of Illinois is broke also.

      That doesn’t mean the politicains won’t try to give the Rickett’s the money, but this idea isn’t gaining much traction, so far.

  10. Wrigley Field may be the best only good thing about the Cubs Chicago since Ernie Banks that cow

    Your statement wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t complete, either.

  11. Wrigley field needs a bailout!

    Seriously though, these stadium deals are some of the worst examples of corporate welfare I can imagine. Better for a city to just own the team like Green Bay does the Packers than to have socialized costs and private profits.

    1. Yeah! Like bank bailouts, right?

    2. I think the city should give the Ricketts’ the 300 million, but make them spend it on talent. 103 years and no world series

      Seriously, though, I am a big Cubs fan and my Dad and I been talking for a while about how they just need to get out of that park and leave all that cursed history behind. They could fill a stadium 10,000 – 15,000 seats larger with more luxury boxes for 81 games a year easy and make much more money. They could also afford to privately finance that baby too. Now, the Sox on the other hand are like GM, they couldn’t survive without the taxpayer subsidy. Bunch of fairwether, Obama lovin’ trash…

  12. I get the desire to keep an icon like Wrigley Field functioning – it was weird when they closed Yankee Stadium. But it bugs me to no end when tax dollars go to fund building or renovating major league sports arenas, especially given the outlandish ticket prices then charged to see an event in an arena that technically I own.

    But we do it to ourselves. When the baseball strike threatened the whole season several years back, fans were pissed – but they were right back in the parks the following season, paying the ticket prices and buying the overpriced peanuts, popcorn and crackerjack. Fans can’t really complain about how little they make and how outlandishly much the ball players make when we keep willingly giving them the money.

  13. Actually there is winning tradition at Wrigley just not in baseball. The Bears played there for decades. Only the old Giants stadium has hosted more NFL games that Wrigley Field. Asking people what stadium had hosted the most NFL games before its record was broken by the old Giants’ Stadium in 2008 is a great bar bet. No one ever gets it right. Wrigley is where Halas stalked the sidelines and where Sayers once scored six touchdowns. Where Johnny Lujak and the great Bear teams of the late 40s and 50s played.

    As for the Cubs, they are losers. And their fans almost as annoying as Red Sox fans. I get tired of the “world’s cutest baseball team” act. I say keep Wrigley and contract the Cubs. Let Chicago root for the White Sox.

    1. U. of Illinois and Northwestern are playing a football game in Wrigley this weekend. How will it fit?

      1. I mean, obviously the Bears did it. But isn’t it rather tight for football?

      2. http://www.chicagobreakingspor…..field.html

        That is how. And it does look cool. And Army and Notre Dame are playing a Yankee Stadium this weekend. I love it.

        1. Guess the receivers won’t be running many routes that carry them through the endzone. At least I hope not.

        2. Saw the Boston Patriots play the Giants in Fenway Park…back when dinosaurs ruled the earth

    2. I get tired of the “world’s cutest baseball team” act.

      “World’s Greatest Marketing Exercise” is more like it–how many other teams can claim a fan base that actually revels in the team losing on annual basis?

      1. But… but… but Bartman. And black cats!

        The Cubs choke come playoffs, if they can even get in, and I can’t help but love ’em.

      2. how many other teams can claim a fan base that actually revels in the team losing on annual basis

        It didn’t use to be that way. In the early 80’s, the stadium did not come close to selling out during losing seasons.

        Then, after some marketing magic from the Tribune Company, they started selling out even during losing seasons.

  14. I understand the landmark sentiment here. But if the taxpayers don’t want to pay to maintain said landmark they shouldn’t have to and sometimes people just need to learn to let things go.

  15. Best park in the country, but public money shouldn’t be spent. Not a dime.

    1. Ditto to what Pro Lib says.

      For those who have never been to Wrigley Field, if you ever get a chance, especially when the weather is nice (this is Chicago, you know), you should see a game at Wrigley Field.

      And if you root for another team like I do (Go Cards!), you have a better than even chance of seeing the Cubs loose.

  16. The Red Sox were able to take the smallest ballpark in the MLB and turn it into a cash cow with limited public money. I believe it was something like 50 million for infrastructure improvements. Wrigley probably wouldn’t need that since it’s in the middle of a nice neighborhood, although without the private co-option of public streets. The Red Sox ownership group created a business model for re-habbing a beloved ballpark and making a mint off of it with private money. The Ricketts are aware of how to do this, but are basically doing due-diligence in seeing if they can get suckers to give them free money. Illinois government is not short on suckers. They aren’t leaving or tearing down Wrigley since it’s the only thing that keeps the punters coming.

  17. I probably should know this considering where I live – isn’t Wrigley built from reinforced cement? What happens to uncoated rebar in reinforced cement after a century of Chicago weather? I often hear people defending Wrigley against tear down, but no one ever mentions its structural condition.

    1. I’m not sure how it is built, but the last time I was at Wrigley, it was in pretty decent condition.

      You can tell the park is pretty old, but I didn’t see any cracks in the cement or rust.

  18. Consider me shocked that it only takes $10 million/year in maintenance. Would’ve guessed the number to be higher had I not read that.

    1. Actually those are the figures that someone wanting public money is throwing around, it’s probably LESS.

  19. What a crock of shit, who the fuck cares?

  20. He argues this would be a no-lose deal for the public because all the tax revenue to be diverted to the Cubs is money that would not be generated without their presence in Wrigley. “Those are dollars that wouldn’t have been spent anywhere,” he said in a meeting with the Tribune editorial board.

    Yep. If there isn’t a Cubs game there are no other entertainment options for Windy City residents. They’ll flush those entertainment dollars down the shitter.

  21. This article makes no sense. Chapman opposes taxpayer money for either renovation or a new stadium — so far so good.

    But then the rest of the article is just “my opinion on how someone else should invest their money and run their company”. Who cares? Chapman’s take is no more interesting or informed than any Joe Meathead from Irving Park calling a sports talk show.

  22. What I’m not clear on is how replacing Wrigley would be any less of a taxpayer ass-fuck than maintaining or upgrading it. Does anybody really believe they wouldn’t ask for (and receive) at least as much public funding for new digs?

  23. Mister Daley, tear down that stadium!

    1. +102 (get it!? you see 2010 – 1908 = 102… oh nevermind)

  24. Actually they’re just asking for the “entertainment tax” (ie, tourist shakedown tax) that the city and state levy on Cubs tickets to be spent on renovating the stadium rather than kickbacks to Mayor Daley’s friends.

  25. Is there anybody stupid enough to believe that pro sports will disappear if we don’t subsidize them?

    I can dream, can’t I?

  26. Why is Chapman discussing owner-funded replacement of Wrigley as if that is a real option?

    There is no chance the owners of Wrigley will knock it down on their own dime. They aren’t going to knock it down UNLESS they get the government to pay for it.

    Their real options are: 1) live with it, 2) Get Chicago to build a replacement on site, 3) get Chicago or another town to build a replacement somewhere else

  27. Tearing down Wrigley is the only way the Cubs will ever make an appearance in the World Series because of the curse.

    And don’t give me that Boston curse BS because it was just called the curse of The Babe, the Cubs had an actual whammy whammy type curse put on them by the owner of Billy Goat’s Tavern.

    Cubs suck!

    1. The curse was lifted a few years back; The Cubs just suck.

      1. Lifted? Did you see it get torn up or something? What the fuck do you call the knucklehead leaning out and grabbing the fucking ball and trashing the best shot they’ve had in years?

        On using public money, sure, on two conditions. Rahm gets elected mayor of Chicago, and the Cubs win the Series. Then the negotiations may proceed.

        Until then, touching 1060 West Addison is in League with the Taliban fucking up the Bamyan Buddahs.

      2. The curse can’t be lifted because the man who cursed them is dead.

        Wind Rider is correct, when Bartman can reach out to grab a fly ball and the shit rolls down hill for the Cubs from there, you know the curse is alive and well.

        1. The son came and lifted it; curses being intellectual property and all.

    2. I love people espousing team curses on a site named *REASON* (laughing)

  28. This was all started when Jerry Reinsdorf used his own money to buy land for a new White Sox stadium and planned to build it with his own money – then the state and local governments stepped in and told him “No, you can’t.”

    The idiots running Illinois practically forced public money on him. Gives you an idea of the astronomical level of corruption in the state.

    1. >>Gives you an idea of the astronomical level of corruption in the state.

      Sadly, this only scratches the surface.

  29. it’s time to admit that Wrigley can’t go on forever.

    Bite your tongue. In the bleachers, it’s the best stadium in the majors; in the grandstands, not so great. Certainly better than Fenway – which is not going away anytime soon.

    Hey, can you give a shout out to LA? The NFL has come calling quite a few times since both teams left & LA has said the same thing each time – you want to move a team here fine, but we’re not coughing up $500M. Neither NY or Chicago can make that same claim.

  30. well the new Texas Stadium cost 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS…..did Jerry Jonea do that without Dallas ‘ taxpayers contributing…doubtful The new Yankee Stadium cost New Yorkers big bucks….so what is 200 million, the figure I read to renovate and preserve a National Landmark….yes you are a Cardinal Fan and probably go to more White Sox games than Cubs games…

  31. Actually we don’t know if Cubs fans turn out if they win or lose, we only know they turn out if the Cubs lose.

  32. Is los Angles any less for the Rams and Raiders leaving? We need a public that will not give away public money for private ends.

  33. “I am not immune to the appeal of Wrigley, though I was wearing a Cardinals cap the last time I went.”

    Mr. Chapman, if you were wearing a Cardinals cap, you would be immune to the majesty of the Taj Mahal, the elegance of the Sistene Chapel, or the might of the Himalayas. In fact, you’d be immune to the bite of a black mamba. You, sir, are evil; and I do not say so lightly. Only someone possessing a poisoned soul would suggest what you’ve put forward. It was a modern tragedy Yankees Stadium was torn down, which you use as an example to bolster your argument. For further justification, you might use the example of the White Sox replacing Old Comiskey, but did you ever see a game there? Nobody did, because of the i-beams; there were more crutches for the lower deck than in a Dali canvas. Wrigley is not only a piece of history, but a beautiful place to watch the game. Your argument, Mr. Chapman, epitomizes everything wrong with the business of baseball; you would melt down King Tut’s mask to sell the gold wholesale because, after all, the kid doesn’t really need the mask anymore, now does he? And we can actually USE that gold to buy something nice, right? Like a diamond grill like Kanye West’s. After all, that’s what the kids like. Now, in essence, that is your argument; and I’m surprised editors for a website named ‘reson’ would let something so ridiculous slip through.

    I’m gonna pray for you, my brother. You have lost your way.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.