by Matt Eurich
This past Saturday a dream I had had for years finally came true, I got to see a game inside Fenway Park. The sights, the sounds, and the smells all had a familiar feel to it and made me wonder, can Wrigley Field benefit from the “Fenway Plan”?
I have been lucky enough to have seen many live sporting events in my life but for as long as I can remember I have wanted to see a baseball game inside Fenway Park. This past Saturday a dream of mine finally became reality and I got to see a game inside historic Fenway Park. Although always compared to each other, Fenway proved it had a leg up on Wrigley Field and while there I was overcome by not only their similarities but the differences.
As game time approached on Saturday evening, my friends and I wandered up and down Yawkey Way alongside Fenway taking pictures, looking through Red Sox shops, purchasing surprisingly good slices of pizza and cooling ourselves off with ice cold beer. The more we wandered around the more and more it felt familiar. Sure, there wasn’t the busyness that surrounds the neighborhood of Wrigley Field, but the smell of the popcorn and the buzz in the air made me feel at home.
An hour or so before game time Yawkey Way is barricaded off and the only way to enter the area is with a valid ticket for that evening’s game. We found ourselves in a bar (Who’s On First) at that time but when we finally decided to enter the stadium there was an employee right outside the bar who would only let us enter Yawkey Way if we had our valid ticket.
The mixture of metal and concrete again conjured up memories of the friendly confines and I was just as excited to walk towards field level of Fenway as I was when I walked in to Wrigley Field for the first time when I was ten years old.
Much like Wrigley there is nostalgia and an aura to the field itself. I stood there gazing at the green monster and realized that so many greats had stepped foot on that field before; Ruth, Williams, Yastrzemski, Fisk and the list goes on and on. There I was, literally standing in a baseball museum.
After gazing around the ballpark it dawned on me, there is almost no part of the stadium that does not feature some form of advertising. There is the famous Citgo sign hovering beyond left field, Covidien plastered on the green monster (along with various others), Coca-Cola near the left foul pole and Budweiser near the right, as well as a slew of others ranging from Dunkin Donuts to New Balance. Fenway Park is a sellout in every meaning of the word. We were seated along the third base side in grandstand 30, but because of little to no renovations in that area we deemed those particular seats too uncomfortable to actually sit in.
With the opportunity to wander the park we were able to view various parts of the game from out in center field by the beautiful jumbo screen, along the first base line, and my favorite, up on the highest level just under the Coca-Cola sign that gave us an incredible view of the whole stadium.
While leaving the stadium I thought to myself, “Could the Cubs really pull this off?” Sure, throughout recent years the Cubs have become more and more willing to include advertisements throughout the park and even though they can be a bit of an eyesore the Red Sox have proven that advertisement revenue can go a long way towards increasing payroll and building a contending team.
In April, Mayor Emmanuel laid out a plan that he dubbed the “Fenway Plan”, a plan that would mimic what the Red Sox did with their historic stadium and provide a new abundance of revenue to the Cubs and the surrounding neighborhood. The proposal envisioned shutting down Waveland and Sheffield for every game just like they shut down Yawkey Way.
The shutting down of Yawkey Way works because it isn’t a normal functioning family neighborhood like Wrigley is people still need to get to and from their residence and closing down the roads will only further their frustration. The Cubs have tried a similar approach this summer hosting a “block party” but they were met with little to no fanfare.
Whenever the subject of more advertising at Wrigley Field is brought up, Cubs fans become angered. Some fans were in an uproar over the Toyota sign out in left field and the Under Armor signs on the outfield walls but to me, I see advertisements and I see more revenue that can be spent on players and the stadium in the future.
Does every corner of Wrigley need to be plastered with Nikon, Coca-Cola, or Sony? No, but in order for not only Wrigley to be improved but the team to be improved, advertisements need to happen.
Fenway Park does a great job of blending old with new. The jumbo screen next to the green monster blends in so well now you would have thought it was there when Carlton Fisk was willing his ball fair in the 1975 World Series. Fenway takes something old and iconic and does not look to degrade it but improve it. Cubs’ fans have long been against the addition of a jumbo screen fearing the demise of the iconic scoreboard. If done right a jumbo screen can be added without the degradation of the scoreboard.
Fenway Park and the “Fenway Plan” proved to me that a stadium can still have the charm of an old stadium with a touch of modernism but still bring in revenue that can benefit the team. Does the added revenue immediately improve the team? No, but that revenue could not only be spent on player development but could help improve a stadium that is in dire need of an upgrade.
People will continue to come to Wrigley Field solely because it is Wrigley Field but sooner or later improvements are going to have to be made and it is going to be tough to market both a struggling team and a struggling stadium.