I bring this up because I read about the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium that was just approved. The extra amenities include a bar as long as the field and seats with a built in rumble paks.* It also has, to quote the Sports Illustrated blurb, a “‘Fantasy Football Lounge’ and . . . a futuristic electronics store.” Why on earth do you need an electronics store at a game? Why do you need seats that make sure you know when a big hit has happened? Why on Earth would you go to a bar in a stadium?
*Remember when that was so revolutionary with video games? Now it’s just taken as a given.
I mean, please. I know that attendance has been dropping with the advent of the age of Sunday Ticket and HDTV. I get it. But this is how you win fans back? If you wanted to watch a game at a bar, believe me, you’re so much better off just to go to bar. There is no call to pay that much for a ticket* and to pay what stadiums charge for a beer** when you can saunter down to your neighborhood bar or a B-Dubs and pay half of that, drinking and eating to your heart’s content. And that’s looking what what they’re charging in the old stadium. God knows what they’d try to charge you at a new stadium with all these bells and whistles.
*This site tells me the average cost for a ticket to a Falcons game was $72.45 in 2009. That’s one hell of a cover charge.
**$7.50 for 16 oz. for Atlanta. Or, you know, the cost of a six pack at the grocery store.
This isn’t a particularly new phenomenon. It started small. First came the mascots. I don’t think that many people have too big a problem with that, even at the time. Then little things like Bernie Brewer going down his slide or the Big Apple at Shea. That’s all fine and good. Those are things that generally add to the game and the atmosphere. Or, at the very least, don’t interfere with it. Nowadays, though, that apparently won’t cut it.
You still get things like that. The train in Houston. Whatever that thing is in Miami.* But then there are the ridiculous things that you just plain can’t enjoy while watching the game. Like the aforementioned bar. The Cowboys walking through a club to get to and from the field. A pool in the stadium. Are the games really that awful you would rather spend that kind of money not to pay attention to it?
*I know, I totally agree it’s hideously gaudy. But, I love it. I think I’m in the minority here. I wouldn’t love it anywhere else. But that is so totally Miami. Or, at least, the perception of Miami. It works.
Which leads me to another point of contention. Is is possible for the Ricketts family just to leave Wrigley alone? Seriously. There are improvements to be made, to be sure. But those improvements honestly don’t have to happen where the fans can see them. They just don’t. Up the food and drink options, and you’ve got it. You don’t need an electric sign big enough they can read it in Comisky. You don’t need that stupid little sign in the right field well. You certainly don’t need to do anything to block the view from the famous rooftops of Wrigleyville. Expand the clubhouses, up the player amenities. Fine. But the fans already have a cathedral of the game to marvel at. If they’re really Cub fans or baseball fans, they’ll get it. And they’ve been getting it for the past century or so.
You say the problem is you don’t bring in enough money. This new sign (that seems designed to totally overshadow maybe the most famous scoreboard in sports) will provide all this money you’re currently missing out on in advertising. Well, Mr. Ricketts, if you can’t figure out how to make money owning the Cubs, you need to find another business. The Cubs routinely sell out no matter how good the team is thanks to that park. Cubs merchandise flies off shelves. You have one of the most well known teams globally (behind probably only the Yankees and Red Sox), and certainly what would be considered a national team.* You don’t have to worry about paying anything for the stadium other than normal operations. I’m sure the building is paid off by now. You have all these advantages, but you can’t figure out how to make money other than finding ways to spoil everything that made Wrigley Field special and different than every other stadium in the league. Really?
*As opposed to the White Sox, who are definitely regional.
The Cubs are a mess on the field with only one real stud in Anthony Rizzo (who’s been slumping lately). The ownership clearly doesn’t understand what this stadium means to the city or its fans. The things they are looking to improve aren’t doing anything to help the concern of players that complain about the outdatedness of that end of things, which the fans don’t see. You probably won’t be watching the Cubs on WGN in the near future. It really is enough to make you puke.