My wife and I used to own a small but tidy little house in Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood. It was a great place. It was built in the 20s yet somehow no one over the ensuing decades pained over the wonderful woodwork, replaced the glass doorknobs, or ruined the floors with bad carpet or linoleum. Sure, the place needed some electrical work and I was never 100% confident that my basement would stay dry in bad weather, but I truly loved that old house.
Eventually, however, we had children and the place was just too small to suit the needs of our growing family. We put the old homestead on the market and it sold within five days, as we knew it would. The new owners — a young, childless couple like we were when we bought the place — seemed nice, and we actually had them over a couple of times to give them a longer look around before closing.
Like many soon-to-be-former homeowners, I had pangs of regret as I showed these new people my home. Though I would have no say in the matter after the money exchanged hands, I was concerned that they’d screw the place up. That they wouldn’t take care of it like my wife and I did. That they would approach the necessary infrastructure renovations with a heavy hand and just ruin the charm of the place. In other words, I was a lot like the Tribune Company:
When Tribune Co. bought the last-place Cubs and Wrigley Field for $21.1 million in 1981, the park was antiquated and in a run-down neighborhood where fans sometimes were allowed to enter the bleachers free in the late innings.
It was a simpler time, when the Cubs were still a local phenomenon and Wrigley Field was no more than a half-empty ballpark with ivy-covered walls and a hand-operated scoreboard.
But change is on the horizon. The Ricketts family soon may be running a division-winning team with a $140 million payroll in an East Lakeview neighborhood that has gentrified into ” Wrigleyville,” one of the city’s most desirable locales.
The ballpark on the other hand still needs substantial work.
If the Rickettses’ bid that was selected over two others is ultimately successful, how will the new owner treat the 95-year-old park? Can they maintain it as an iconic structure while capitalizing on it as an outdoor cash machine?
Landmark ordinances will prohibit too many changes to Wrigley, but fans should expect some kind of face lift in the coming years.
Unlike my old place on Brevoort Ave., Wrigley Field is going to make the Cubs a lot of money going forward. Thankfully, there’s a precedent in the form of what has happened to Fenway in the past few years, and the Ricketts family would do well to emulate what Henry and Werner did after taking over the Red Sox.
Some people will complain as the process goes forward. Renovations are disruptive and expensive, after all. But unless the Ricketts family truly bungles things, most folks will be pretty darn happy with the end result. After all, what’s the alternative? Moving to a shiny new place in the suburbs? Listen folks, I’ve done that. And while it’s awfully convenient and pleasant enough, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make the same decision if I had it to do over again.