Would Wrigley Field Change if Its Name Did? The Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Cubs, is considering selling the naming rights to 94-year-old Wrigley Field. The possibility of a new stadium name has caused an uproar among Cubs fans and baseball purists.
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Would Wrigley Field Change if Its Name Did?

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Would Wrigley Field Change if Its Name Did?

Would Wrigley Field Change if Its Name Did?

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Talk about time-honored baseball rituals, here's one for you. The Chicago Cubs and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. It's a landmark, the second oldest park in the Major Leagues. Some argue, the most beautiful, the brick and ivy of the outfield walls, the surrounding gray stone flats. And for more than eight decades, the stadium has borne the Wrigley name.

But the Cubs have a new owner, Sam Zell, and he says he might be willing to sell the rights to the stadium name. He thinks he could get $400 million. Well, you can guess the reaction.

Ms. JENNY CHEN(ph): Well, I think it's a travesty.

Mr. ERIC CALVERSON(ph): What I was thinking was, that maybe we should all maybe contribute a buck and buy them from Mr. Zell.

Mr. CARLOS MACKY(ph): I think that will suck a little bit because that's been -historically the name of the stadium for so long and I just think it would suck.

Ms. SHARON BIVERO(ph): Now, just so they don't name it like Verizon Field or something.

Mr. FERNANDO CHAVEZ(ph): I'm actually happy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FERNANDO CHAVEZ: Because I'm Sox fan, so - all these guys, they were laughing at us about changing the name. We can laugh at them now.

BLOCK: We heard from Jenny Chen, Eric Calverson, Carlos Macky, Sharon Bivero and Fernando Chavez outside the Wrigley building, not the field, in Chicago today.

Well, we asked the Cubs to put up their best utility infielder to defend the idea. They steered us to Mike Lufrano. He's the team's senior vice president for community affairs.

Mr. MICHAEL LUFRANO (Senior Vice President for Community Affairs, Chicago Cubs): You know, our primary goals for the Cubs are to win a world championship and to preserve a historic stadium. Ninety-nine years without winning a World Series is too long. And we're hoping to change that this year. And if changing the name of the field helps us to accomplish those goals, I think it's something that the people have looked at.

In an ideal world, Wrigley Field is an icon and it would never be changed. But just like historic stadiums throughout the country - Fenway Park in Boston, Yankee Stadium in New York - they need to be upgraded and modernized to continue to keep pace with the times, with what our fans want in terms of amenities in the ballpark experience.

BLOCK: But Fenway Park is still Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium is still Yankee Stadium, it's not Citigroup Yankee Stadium or Bank of America Fenway Park.

Mr. LUFRANO: Yankee Stadium is being rebuilt and a new one is going to be built in the next few years. Fenway Park has much more advertising and other things than Wrigley Field. Each of these parks in their own way has looked at opportunities to generate the revenue that it takes to compete in Major League Baseball these days.

BLOCK: But it's a name, I mean, there's a whole lot riding on the name Wrigley Field. It's been that way. It's been named that since 1926.

Mr. LUFRANO: You're right. In an ideal world, it wouldn't be the thing that you would do but we live in a business that requires us to compete and 99 years without a World Series is too long.

Since Sam Zell became CEO of Tribune Company a little while ago, he's authorized a number of improvements to the team and the ballpark. We replaced our playing surface, we've invested in our payrolls so that we're among the top in Major League baseball now. Those sorts of investments are the kinds of things that hopefully will result in a championship very soon.

BLOCK: You know the critics say that the - if the naming rights are sold, that money doesn't go to help the team, that goes to help Sam Zell buy a new yacht or something like that. Do you think there's any truth to that?

Mr. LUFRANO: I don't know if he's a boater at all. I do know that he's been investing in the team.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUFRANO: I don't know at the end of the day whether the naming rights will change. Certainly, I respect and understand all the feelings that we heard from our fans. I grew up eight blocks from Wrigley Field and it was my favorite place to go. But I know that I also want to see the Cubs in the World Series.

BLOCK: Has there been any thought, Mr. Lufrano, to having the Wrigley company pay now for having its name on Wrigley Field?

Mr. LUFRANO: That's something that's been written about and talked about. I don't know as I sit here how that would play out, but certainly it's a conversation that I think has taken place in the media, and we'll see what happens.

BLOCK: Has it taken place with folks from Wrigley?

Mr. LUFRANO: There have been some discussions, but I don't know that they've gone beyond the initial phase yet.

BLOCK: I can't let you go without asking if you think this could be the year that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Last time it was 1908 - it's 2008 -there's a nice symmetry there?

Mr. LUFRANO: We own the year '08…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LUFRANO: I sure hope so. We're looking forward to it. We've got an exciting team and, as I said, we've invested the revenue that we generated in the past few years into the team, so I hope people will come out to the ballpark and see the Cubs.

BLOCK: Whatever its name is.

Mr. LUFRANO: It's Wrigley Field this year.

BLOCK: Okay. Mr. Lufrano, thanks so much.

Mr. LUFRANO: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Mike Lufrano ever hopeful senior vice president for community affairs for the Chicago Cub.

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