By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka the PRDude
The headline from an article in today’s online Chicago Tribune was as resounding as a tape-measure home run: “Cubs striking out in PR fight over Wrigley plan. ” For the record, the print edition of the Tribune featured a different headline for the same piece: “Cubs swinging away in Wrigley plan PR fight.”
Regardless, the news from both mediums is the same: The Chicago Cubs are embroiled in some kind of problem, and regardless of the nature of the problem, it somehow involves public relations. As a loyal and life-long Cubs fan and public relations professional, I’d like to help.
On the surface, this entire scenario is strange because the 2011 Major League Baseball season is around six months away, and no one in the Cubs front office — as far as I know — is under indictment. The only inebriated people staggering around the intersection of Clark and Addison these day are the denizens who frequent the many bars nearby; so the PR issue can’t be tied to a contest on the field, someone in the front office or overly zealous and overly served baseball fans.
Upon reading the piece, I learned the fully story. The issue is tied to what makes the world go round. And, that, of course is money.
Here’s what’s going on: The new owners of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family, are asking for a loan from the state of Illinois to pay for some improvements to the venerable Wrigley Field. These improvement include making sure what was once known as the Upper Deck (now billed and sold as Upper Level and Terrace Reserved) does not come crashing down on those sitting the Field Box seats. Actually, they’re asking for a lot of money — $300 million in the form of bonds from the State of Illinois — to complete proposed renovations.
Terms of the bond proposal are the stuff only guys in gray suits can decipher, but the owners want to repay the bonds through future amusement tax revenues paid by Cub fans who purchase tickets . And, one more thing: They’re seeking money from a state that is facing a $14 billion budget crisis.
As the Tribune reports: “The team’s proposal is complicated, and that’s part of Ricketts’ public-relations problem.” Excuse me, but I think this really is more of a financial problem.
But as the PRDude, a Cub fan who saw Ernie Bank play and remember ticket prices of 90 cents — yes, 90 cents — in the bleachers, I’m here to offer effective public relations counsel. Here are two definitive, attainable objectives with the goal of keeping the Cubs financially viable until they win a World Series or Chicago elects a Republican mayor:
1. Increase awareness by 50 percent by year-end 2011 among season ticket holders that the price of their treasured seats will continue to escalate for the foreseeable future.
2. Increase acceptance by 100 percent among all baseball fans from the 2011 season until the Cubs win a World Series that every trip to Wrigley Field is an historic event: Witnessing the athletic competition of the professional sports franchise with the longest consecutive streak of not winning the ultimate championship.
Best of success to the Ricketts family in their quest to secure the funding needed to keep Wrigley Field open for another generation or two of fans who continue to have faith that “this year will be the year.” Or, maybe next year. Providing of course, the old Upper Deck stay where it’s suppose to be.