NCAA Talk

Cubs marketing blitz: 365 days of Wrigley

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Cubs marketing blitz: 365 days of Wrigley

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
7:21 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The Bears havent played at Wrigley Field since 1970, and the stadium hasnt hosted a college football game in 72 years. Northwestern and Illinois havent even practiced there yet, and already youre wondering: Whats next?

That depends on how Saturday plays out, and the financing the Cubs ultimately structure around their long-range vision for a ballpark that is nearly a century old.

The Cubs have been lobbying the commissioners office for the All-Star Game, something team president Crane Kenney called a massive undertaking that our facility today probably isnt suited for.

Some 400 million later the proposed combination of state-issued bonds and private investment by the Ricketts family Wrigley Field could be hosting that game and aggressively bidding for larger events.

The Cubs already draw three million fans a year. Realistically they cant sell more tickets or significantly raise prices.

Chairman Tom Ricketts essentially acknowledged as much while trying to defend his plan to renovate Wrigley Field. He projects that the teams annual amusement-tax contributions around 16 million wont increase beyond inflation without major upgrades.

As Ricketts explained: Were getting to the point: How much more ticket-price power do we have in a ballpark without the kind of amenities that so many modern ballparks have?

So the Cubs are looking for ways to make money without totally changing the stadiums feel or alienating their fan base while easing political and neighborhood concerns. Chief sales and marketing officer Wally Hayward said the team is still exploring just how many non-baseball events Wrigley Field can hold each year.

Were limited because of the beautiful space that we have here and the ivy and the rooftops on putting traditional signage in like other stadiums, Hayward said. We dont want to do that. Were not taking the ivy down, so its critical to generate new revenue by bringing incremental events to Wrigley.

Kenney said concerts require so much advance work that the team needs to be on an extended road trip. When the Dave Matthews Band performed two nights at Wrigley Field in the middle of September, the Cubs went 12 days between home games, their longest stretch all season.

Cubs executives are open to the idea of more football, as well as soccer at Wrigley Field.

On Saturday Army and Notre Dame will play the first football game at the new Yankee Stadium, which will also stage the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30.

The Big Ten, which is headquartered in Chicago, seems like a natural partner if Wrigley Field ever hosted a bowl. After Saturday, Northwestern will evaluate whether its worth moving another home game from Evanston.

We really wanted to do this, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said. We havent come to the end to really assess what we felt the things we liked, the things we didnt like. So to call it an annual event I would say is premature. We want to see what this looks like and how it goes.

This is an experiment on several levels. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sheffield Avenue will be shut down between Addison Street and Waveland Avenue. There will be live music, multiple television screens to watch college football and several areas to eat and drink.

Thats replicating how the Boston Red Sox use Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park and previewing what the Cubs want to do with the Triangle development next to a remodeled Wrigley Field.

Sooner or later, youll likely see these street festivals before Cubs games.

Lets take one step at a time. This is a great test for us to really create a fanfest out on Sheffield, said Hayward, a Northwestern graduate. Ideally, it all goes well and the neighbors and community like it. We would love to try to do it around some of our marquee Cubs games in 2011.

Its also an opportunity for Cubs management to connect with corporate sponsors.

Workers on Wednesday morning put up more green Allstate panels in front of the outfield wall covered in brown ivy. Valspar had already been used to paint the marquee purple. Thats the backdropadvertisement when ESPNs College GameDay is shot Saturday from the McDonalds parking lot.

All this will make certain Cubs fans uneasy, especially in the year of the Toyota sign, BP Cup and yellow noodle. Maybe some things are sacred, but with a Taco Bell down the street, Wrigleyvilles not exactly Vatican City.

In the end, the Cubs want to make Wrigley Field a year-round destination, and they say these revenues go toward baseball operations.

Thats why ownership made the calculation to feature board member Todd Ricketts on Undercover Boss. The chance to reach all those families thinking about a summer vacation outweighed the potential to look silly.

With that CBS reality show and some 150 media credentials issued for Saturdays Northwestern-Illinois game the Cubs are guaranteed to stay in the headlines.

Weve been busy. Its been a good offseason, Hayward said. The Cubs and Wrigley are an entertainment brand, not just about sports. Its really a lifestyle and entertainment brand. And we can keep the excitement going 365 days out of the year beyond Cubs baseball.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

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AP

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The Rivals.com four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

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USA TODAY

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."