Wrigley Field is kitschy. Anyone who follows the Cubs, or baseball, or even lives in Chicago knows that even when the baseball is bad, the charm is still there. And there's no denying it: Wrigley Field is charming.
Still, there is a subset of Cubs fans who maybe seem a little too attached to the charm. Instead of a perk, a side bonus, the park becomes the very reason they go to Wrigley. Baseball comes second. These people are less baseball fans than they are fans of sun and beer and, of course, nostalgia.
How will these people feel about Cubs chairman Crane Kenney's announcement that the current management of Harry Caray's on Sheffield and Addison will manage a new place attached to Wrigley on Addison and Clark? It will be an indoor-outdoor facility with a turnstile into the park, and the Cubs will reap the financial benefits.
Ryan Corazza at Mouthpiece (disclosure: we also write for Mouthpiece, and Ryan is our best friend) asks whether the new restaurant marks a change in Cubs brass philosophy. Are the Cubs getting greedy?
But there’s the other part of this, the revenue-grubbing, make-us-more-cash-at-the-
Wrigley-Field side that is a bit off-putting here. As the years pass and the Cubs brass try and keep up with the times by seeking out new revenue streams (which I don’t blame them for at all), your precious Wrigley Field and the surrounding area will continue to be morphed into a shopping mall.
We're not so sure Ryan's right. After all, Wrigley Field has always shared its concept with a shopping mall -- both are designed to get your money from you as fast as possible. One sells crap you probably don't need; the other sells baseball fandom, sun, beer, and nostalgia. Same goes for the bars around Wrigley. It's just that the positive associations with baseball outweigh those of a mall, and so when the consumerism is obvious, we get mad.
But the larger point is this: Cubs fans are going to have to get used to this. "Your" ("our") park is going to be used to extract money from you. As new ownership takes over and tries to get the stadium into the 20th century, the pristine, pure nature of Wrigley will suffer some finance-related setbacks. New ads will go up. Ticket prices will increase. New restaurants, like this one, will open.
If the Cubs can do this without sullying the things we love so much about Wrigley, it should be fine, and everyone will benefit because the baseball team will be better. If the Cubs cross some sort of line, we'll know. But until then, complaining about the small stuff -- a new restaurant here, a new outfield ad there -- is going to be counterproductive. Even worse, it's going to be really, really annoying.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who won't mind the new restaurant if their food is better than Wrigley's. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.