The Wrigley Tradition
Watching the Cubs at Wrigley Field has a certain “historical” appeal. After all, Wrigley will be celebrating it’s 100th season this year, with all the pomp and circumstance a franchise like the Cubs can muster, considering that next season will mark the 70th year without a World Series appearance – barring an unlikely surprise this year. Still, “The Friendly Confines” are a destination for many Americans in search of that “Field of Dreams” moment, the opportunity to be whisked away to days of the past, when heroes that have long since departed would grace this hallowed baseball ground; when the likes of Ruth, Aaron, Mays, and Koufax would visit hometown legends like Wilson, Cavaretta, Grimm, Banks, and Santo.
The Wrigley Tradition – Part Deux
But while history and tradition are enough to bring many to the ballpark, another tradition took root on the North Side; a tradition of futility. And while some notable teams of the late 1960’s gave hope to the Cub faithful, the upcoming reality involved year upon year of mediocrity and a tepid fan base. During the many lean years, you could easily get tickets on game day…good tickets…and the prices were very affordable. For a couple of dollars, visitors from outside Chicago could show up an hour before the first pitch, fork over a few bucks, and sit in the sunny bleachers for three hours of fun at the old ballpark.
In the 1981, the Cubs were purchased from The Wrigley Family by The Chicago Tribune. This coincided with a minor rise to power for the franchise. The team’s popularity began to soar, and the small Wrigley crowds were now more frequently swollen masses of humanity, often arriving by bus or limousine from the affluent northern suburbs. A Chicago limo service might have a dozen or more vehicles parked in the Wrigleyville area on game day, something unheard of only a decade before. As new and more frequent visitors began spending their money ion and around the park, new businesses began to take root, from bars and restaurants, to the now famous “Wrigley Rooftops“.
The “Cheap” Seats
While it was a novelty for the WGN camera men (WGN was essentially the sole television broadcast entity for Cubs games until the sale of the team to The Ricketts family in 2009) to catch someone viewing a game from atop a neighboring building, it hardly seemed likely that it would become anything more than just a novelty. However, the newfound interest of the Cubs in the 80’s didn’t just spur limousine service in the neighborhood, it also brought real estate to life. Buildings that ringed the ballpark of Sheffield and Waveland Avenues suddenly became interesting to speculators who devised that somehow, people that now found it difficult to get tickets to a game should have another option. If bleachers could be erected on top of those same buildings, and perhaps if food and drink could be packaged with the ticket, maybe these buildings could become more than a residence…they could become a revenue stream. And the “rooftops” were born. For roughly $100.00 per ticket, the idea became reality, and although economic pressure from the great recession, as well as a return to mediocrity (can you say “rebuilding”?) had forced rooftop owners to the brink of foreclosure in recent years, business has begun to rebound.
Still a Chicago Landmark
The rooftops are still a viable enterprise, but there has been trouble brewing due to agreements signed between the Cubs and rooftop owners. Many improvements the Cubs ownership would like to make to this aging but historic baseball shrine have been slowed by legal maneuvering. This has given potential customers another year of opportunity to catch a game from the “cheap seats”.
Seems odd to call them that…at $100.00 apiece.