Crane Kenney

Crane Kenney expects Wrigley rooftops will be open to fans for Cubs season

Crane Kenney expects Wrigley rooftops will be open to fans for Cubs season

Fans may be able to watch Opening Day at Wrigley Field live and in person. It’s just going to have to be from across the street.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said Thursday morning on 670 The Score that he expects the rooftops overlooking Wrigley Field to be open for the Cubs home opener. The rooftops will still have to abide by city regulations, which will likely limit the number of fans and promote social distancing.

“Even now with the mayor’s phasing of the city’s reopening, we would be allowed to open the rooftops,” Kenney said.

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Kenney also said he hopes that at some point in the season, Wrigley Field itself will be able to open its doors to fans, albeit at a reduced capacity.

"And I've been optimistic on this one for a while,” he said on The Score. “We're fortunate to have some of the best medical professionals in our city helping us -- both from Advocate and Northwestern -- and I'll give credit to the city and the city's health department as well. And there was always a path to bring fans back into Wrigley, obviously a much smaller group that would normally attend games.”

On Friday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s reopening plan will allow some sports venues to fill up to 20 percent occupancy, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot clarified on Monday that Chicago will not yet open stadiums to spectators.

“We are in constant conversation with all of our professional sports teams,” she said in a press conference. “And a lot of that is going to be dictated by their league offices, in conjunction with the players associations. My expectation in the short term, is that they will reopen without fans in the stands.”

She too said she hoped sports venues would eventually be able to welcome in a limited number of fans this year. At Wrigley, 20 percent capacity would be about 8,000 fans.

RELATED: Cubs likely to insert crowd noise on TV broadcasts during fan-less games

"That’s a lot of folks," Lightfoot said on Thursday, "and that obviously exceeds both city and state caps on venues and compacity. But fundamentally, whether it’s 8,000 or 800 or 80, there’ s  got to be a plan for safety. And we’re happy to engage in a discussion with all the sports teams. There’s no bigger sports fan than me and I want to be able to enjoy live sports in the stands myself. But we’ve got to do it at a time when we know that’s appropriate under the public health guidance. And we’re not there yet." 

One of the major sticking points in negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players association this spring was the question of whether players would receive their full prorated salaries. The owners cited massive revenue loss without fans in the stands. The Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, said 70 percent of the team’s revenue came from gameday operations.

The players called on MLB owners to open their books, but that never happened. In the end, the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, so they fell back on the one they ratified in March. Commissioner Rob Manfred set the season at 60 games, as the March 26 agreement gave him the authority to do.   

Without access to financial records, it’s impossible to say how much the Ricketts family would recoup by opening the rooftops and eventually – optimistically -- the ballpark. Since a purchasing spree in 2016, the Ricketts family has controlled a majority of the Wrigley rooftop properties. Operations costs would naturally rise as well. But it’s reasonable to assume the Rickettses, like any business owners, wouldn’t open either if they didn’t see the potential for financial gain.

Teams with a chance of making the playoffs are counting on the postseason, and the lucrative TV deals that come with it, to supply the majority of this year's revenue. But experts have warned that a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could force baseball to shut down early. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, even told the Los Angeles Times that MLB should consider not playing into October. Additional revenue early in the season could help mitigate some of the losses in case of another shutdown.

“Just to make it perfectly clear,” Kenney said of allowing fans at Wrigley Field, “we would not do this, even if the governor allowed it, if we thought it would be unsafe.”


Cubs employees take pay cuts: How cost-saving measures compare across MLB

Cubs employees take pay cuts: How cost-saving measures compare across MLB

Cubs employees aren’t immune to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday NBC Sports Chicago confirmed that Cubs employees will take pay cuts but are guaranteed employment through at least the end of June. Major League Baseball’s return that month could allow the team to avoid furloughs, which other teams such as the Reds, Angels and both Florida clubs have already begun to implement. ESPN was the first to report Cubs pay cuts.

On May 1, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended uniform employee contracts, thus allowing teams to make pay cuts or furlough its UEC employees, such as general managers, team presidents, managers and coaches.

The Cubs are among those who have taken advantage of the emergency change, according to sources. The depth of the cuts range based on salary levels, with the highest-ranking executives, such as President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, taking the largest cuts. A majority of pay cuts will be under 20 percent.

Other teams have resorted to more drastic cost-saving efforts. The Rays began furloughing employees earlier this month.

Several other teams, including the Marlins, Reds and Angels will reportedly begin furloughs on June 1. The Marlins plan to furlough 90-100 members of its baseball operations staff, according to The Athletic. The Reds announced last week that under 25 percent of its employees would be placed on temporary furloughs. The Angels reportedly informed their employees on Tuesday that furloughs would impact employees across the front office, analytics and scouting departments, and minor leagues.

Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story.

Overheard at Cubs Convention: The best and funniest moments from the 2018 fan fest

Overheard at Cubs Convention: The best and funniest moments from the 2018 fan fest

What a difference a year makes.

Cubs Convention 2017 brought with it a ton of emotional moments as fans constantly discussed their own personal World Series championship moments and there were many "thank you"s to Cubs players and personnel.

But there was also some negativity, as Cubs fans grilled Joe Maddon about his pitching decisions - why he kept Aroldis Chapman in so long or why he pulled Kyle Hendricks so early, etc.

2018 featured a much more laid-back approach. 

Maddon made it more than 31 minutes into his panel before his pitching decisions were second-guessed. Fans were still appreciative of anybody who contributed to the championship drought, but they're also hungry for more and wanting to know what the organization is doing to win another World Series in 2018.

With that, here are the best sights and sounds from the weekend:

♦♦This was easily the best moment of the Convention (Warning: NSFW language):

And Schwarber's reaction to it was incredible, too:

Apparently Contreras is willing to sign his new catch phrase on a bat, too:

♦♦A young fan won our NBC Sports Chicago contest and got a chance to meet Addison Russell Saturday.

Grace's dad is deployed in Afghanistan for the third time and we surprised her by bringing her and her mom up to meet Russell. While everybody was waiting at the security desk, Kris Bryant walked through one of the side entrances, saw Grace holding a cheer card and asked, "What's an Authentic Fan?" To which Grace responded - "We are!"

Watch the video of her meeting Russell here:

♦♦There were many funny moments from the weekend, but one of the best lines was from chairman Tom Ricketts. 

In talking about the changes to Wrigley Field in 2018, Ricketts said the notoriously cramped and outdated visitor's clubhouse "may have hot water this year."

♦♦Ricketts also told a story Saturday of an interaction he had with FOX staffers after the Cubs won the NLCS in 2016 and received a trophy:

FOX: "There's something for your trophy case."

Ricketts: "We're the Cubs, we don't have a trophy case."

♦♦Todd Ricketts shared a story of an experience he had with a fan following the magical fall of 2016.

Two brothers had Cubs World Series tickets and one of the brothers ended up having a stroke and had to go to the hospital right before the game they were supposed to attend.

Todd: "Sorry you had to miss the game."

Fan: "Oh, I didn't miss it. As soon as I heard he was gonna live, I grabbed a buddy and went to the game!"

♦♦The best shirt seen at Cubs Convention:

♦♦Some of the best moments come from kids getting up to the microphones and asking questions to Cubs players or staff. One young man got up to the mic and first thanked Theo Epstein for his advice to the fan at a previous convention about how to get a job working in baseball.

The fan then asked the front office how they can find a way to finally get some use out of all those pitchers they've drafted over the years with the Cubs who have yet to make an impact in the big leagues.

Epstein joked that the kid really built up the front office's confidence before shutting them down. Newly-promoted assistant GM Scott Harris jokingly got up and offered the kid a seat his own seat on the podium. 

♦♦Another kid asked Theo Epstein when he should get his own Bryce Harper Cubs jersey.

Epstein: "Ask Kris Bryant. He seems to own a bunch of 'em."

♦♦The first question to Epstein and the front office panel also came from a kid keepin' it real: "What happened to all the pitching in the NLCS??"

♦♦Another kid question to Cubs front office: "Are you going after Yu Darvish?

Kid proceeds to list off teams Darvish is reportedly interested in, including the Cubs.

Epstein: "Wow, you're way more on top of it than our writers are."

♦♦Yeah, yeah, Kyle Schwarber is all skinny now. But Albert Almora Jr. looks like he's in great shape, too. It's not like Almora has ever really looked out of shape, but he looks skinnier and has spent the last month or so working out in Arizona in anticipation of playing a much larger role on the 2018 Cubs.

♦♦Maddon loves his coaching staff, calling it right up there with the best coaching staff he's ever been a part of. Now, he says something along those lines every single year, but this time, the entire staff is filled with guys he hand-picked himself. 

If this coaching staff doesn't work out for whatever reason, more blame than ever will fall on Maddon's shoulders. 

That being said, every coach he brought on - particularly hitting coach Chili Davis, pitching coach Jim Hickey and third-base coach Brian Butterfield - is highly, highly respected around the league.

♦♦Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello said his favorite player growing up was Steve Garvey. Assistant hitting coach Andy Haines said his favorite player was Ozzie Smith.

Both were booed roundly by the Chicago faithful.

♦♦Fan asking Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said: "Nachos were never harder to find [at Wrigley] than last year." Then proceeded to try to pump up the crowd by asking if there were any nacho fans out there. 

It was weird.

♦♦One of the oddest hot takes from the Convention was a fan saying he hates the baskets in the outfield at Wrigley. Not sure I've heard that one before and other fans there did not appreciate it (he was booed mercilessly).

♦♦Who is Kyle Schwarber's celebrity crush? Well...

♦♦This adorable fan:

♦♦Pretty awesome gender reveal with the help of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo:

♦♦An awesome selfie from the Kapman:

♦♦Dillon Maples showing young fan how he holds his slider and arm slot:

♦♦Derrek Lee was asked what homer was most memorable from his career. He said his first one ever, but then also said one in the first couple months he was a Cub. 

He had been traded for Hee Seop Choi and got off to a rough start in Chicago, struggling at the plate. He would hear fans chanting "Hee Seop Choi! Hee Seop Choi!" whenever he came up to the plate. 

Lee finally broke through once at Wrigley and hit a grand slam. He said Saturday he will never forget that curtain call.

♦♦D-Lee and Big Z were an absolute riot. They had a great rapport and could probably work in comedy if they wanted. 

Both players gave each other good-natured crap and Zambrano was hilarious in response to several questions, like a fan asking if he ever had any regrets from his playing career. 
"Next question..." he said to laughs.

♦♦Zambrano also signed a Gatorade bottle for a fan since you know, he loves Gatorade so much...

♦♦Zambrano's dig on Lee was classic:

♦♦How did Lee celebrate the Cubs World Series? Watching with family as they all wore Cubs jerseys. He admitted he was jealous he couldn't be a part of the team that ended the drought, which - I imagine - is a common refrain among former Cubs, especially those that played rather recently.

♦♦In case anybody cares, Ronnie Woo Woo would like to see Ladies Night back at Wrigley Field.

♦♦Let's end on some breaking news: