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.

DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto retiring after 18 years at helm

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USA TODAY

DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto retiring after 18 years at helm

DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto informed the university she will retire in the coming months after 18 years at the helm. 

"It truly has been our privilege and the honor of a lifetime to serve DePaul as athletic director and to witness the unprecedented growth from that  ‘little school under the el’ to its current world class University serving students from around the globe," Ponsetto said in a statement.

“The changing times over these past few months has led me to this decision. Having successfully battled two breast cancer diagnoses and currently in treatment for a third, I thought it was time to step away from the long days, working every weekend and the 24/7 demands that being an athletic director requires."

Ponsetto has been a member of DePaul's athletic department since 1974, when she was a four-sport athlete (tennis, volleyball, basketball, softball). After graduating in 1978, she became DePaul's first assistant women's basketball coach. She later spent seven years as the senior associate athletic director before taking over as AD in 2002.

Ponsetto guided DePaul into the Big East from Conference USA in 2003 and helped organize the new Big East in 2013. She oversaw the development of Wintrust Arena, now home to the basketball teams after decades of playing at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

The women's team has made 17 straight NCAA tournaments under head coach Doug Bruno. The men's team hasn't made the tournament since 2004 and has just two winning seasons since (2006-07, 2018-19). Ponsetto has hired three coaches in that span: Jerry Wainwright, Oliver Purnell and Dave Leitao — who is in his second stint as head coach.

The NCAA put DePaul's men's basketball program on probation for three years last summer due to a recruiting violation, of one two controversies to surround the athletic department in recent years. In April, a sports psychologist formerly affiliated with DePaul filed a lawsuit claiming she was terminated after raising concerns of former softball coach Eugene Lenti's abusive behavior towards players. Lenti is Lenti Ponsetto's brother.

Ponsetto will stay in her role and assist DePaul in its transition to a new AD. The university plans to conduct a national search for her replacement this summer.

NCAA to allow student-athletes to make money off name, image, likeness

NCAA to allow student-athletes to make money off name, image, likeness

The NCAA still won’t be paying its players, but it will allow student-athletes to receive endorsements from third-parties.

The governmental body for college athletics has long been a strong proponent of its athletes being amateurs, but this marks a drastic change in that, even if the schools won’t be allowed to pay the athletes directly. The NCAA’s Board of Governors met this week and supported the changes with some caveats.

“While student-athletes would be permitted to identify themselves by sport and school, the use of conference and school logos, trademarks or other involvement would not be allowed,” a press release from the NCAA read. “The board emphasized that at no point should a university or college pay student-athletes for name, image and likeness activities.”

The rule changes aren’t officially in place and must be implemented by the three divisions of college athletics that fall under the NCAA. The next step is for each division to make the actual rules the board of governors supported. The goal is for that to be in place in January and to take effect for the 2021-22 school year.

“The board’s action is the latest step by the Association to support college athletes and modernize its rules regarding name, image and likeness,” the press release read.

The process for this started back in October and has remained on track for January 2021. 

Maybe the next time a player like Zion Williamson gets hurt busting his shoe open on the court, he can switch shoe companies and make some money off it?