Cubs Full Speed Ahead On ASG, New TV Network

Wrigley Field renovations are set to be done by spring 2020.

Bruce Levine
January 20, 2019 - 10:15 am
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The renovations of Wrigley Field are in their latter stages, with a better ballpark experience and more amenities on the way. By spring 2020, the Cubs envision all the interior changes in the park being finished.

That timeline matters because it would put the Cubs in line to perhaps host the 2021 All-Star Game, which they plan to apply for soon enough. Wrigley Field hasn't hosted the All-Star Game since 1990.

"We will be back in front of MLB applying this year," president of business operations Crane Kenney said at the Cubs Convention on Saturday. "The game has already committed for the next couple of years. This will be a joint process for us. We want the game, but you have to earn it from the commissioner and MLB. This is such a big economic driver for all the cities. The city has to come and make a pitch as to why we deserve it in Chicago. The last time, our (mayor and city) was not strong enough. We will need to find out who the next mayor is. This will be a huge economic driver for a city that gets it."

The Cubs' renovation of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area has been accompanied by a political fistfight between the Ricketts family ownership and the city, notably local alderman Tom Tunney, who's seeking re-election. The animosity has continued in a public forum in recent days, with the Cubs criticizing Tunney in an attempt to get him out of office. The sides have long disagreed on a variety of topics.

In years past, the rooftops across from Wrigley Field were front and center. The Cubs have also long expressed their displeasure over having a limitation on their night games. More recently, there's been  has had to do with rules regarding the Cubs' plaza and particularly business rules and limitations for serving liquor. 

"I get a ton of email asking me why we are so interested in politics," Kenney said. "The answer is we want a level playing field. We want to be treated like every other team in town. We want to be treated like every other bar in town. We want to be treated like every other restaurant in town. We want this so we can be treated fairly. Do the White Sox have any limits on night games being played? The same thing goes for hours of operation. The Cubs want to be treated like everyone else -- no better and no worse." 

What's new at Wrigley Field in 2019?

Fans will notice some changes at Wrigley Field when the regular season opens:

-- New upper-deck wraparound seating in the right-field corner and additional seating
-- New restaurants and bathrooms in the upper deck and a concourse walkway expansion
-- WiFi broadband system that will change the way interactive communication will take place at the park
-- Paperless tickets with an app system assisting season-ticket holders

On Saturday, Kenney hosted a seminar in a packed ballroom with around 800 people in it. Various Cubs department heads joined him on stage to explain changes in their area of expertise.

"We realize there is discomfort with any change," Kenney said about the new app that replaces paper tickets. "Airlines are now mainly mobile. Not everybody loved it initially, but now I haven't seen many paper tickets in years myself. The tickets can easily transfer from phone to phone."

The implementation of new light stanchions and a rehab of the press box will take place next offseason.

New TV network on the horizon

The Cubs' new regional television network  will launch in February 2020. The new partner who will pay a rights fee and distribute the games will be officially named in the next month or so. Speculation has persisted about Sinclair Broadcasting being the probable partner.

Other teams outside of the Chicago market might be involved, Kenney said while remaining vague on whether those would be collegiate or professional teams.

A major challenge for the Cubs' new network revolves around which cable companies will carry it. The projected price for the Cubs' network as a standalone is $6.50 monthly.

"Carriage is a concern," Kenney said.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.