Wrigley’s New Sportsbook Radiating Serious Soldier Field Vibes

I almost wrecked my car the first time I saw the giant spaceship that had crash-landed at Soldier Field. This must have been 2003 or ’04 and I had just merged onto Lake Shore Drive at McCormick Place when the bastardized façade sprang into view, shocking in its incongruity. Even though I knew what they’d done with the place, I hadn’t been expecting it because I was on my way to Wrigley for a Cubs game.

That’s fitting because more than a few people are going to do double-takes as they approach the federal landmark to find a sparkling glass bauble affixed to its southern border. We’ve all known this was coming for some time, but that doesn’t make it any less odd-looking or, for many Cubs fans, outright offensive.

The Ricketts family applied for and was awarded a special designation of Wrigley Field as a National Historic Landmark in late 2020 following extensive renovations that included replacing all of the building’s concrete along with the addition of video boards and several club seating areas. That landmark designation garnered a 20% credit on “qualified rehabilitation costs,” which team spokesman Julian Green said was expected to fall between $100-125 million.

At the time of that news, team chairman Tom Ricketts said the credits would not affect player payroll due to the nature of the team’s finance strategy.

“Unfortunately, no, the historic tax credits will not have an impact in any way on our baseball budget,” Ricketts explained. “It was all part of the stadium redesign financing plan that has played out for the last seven years and it doesn’t have any current impact for us. So I wish I could get tax credits and give them to baseball players, but I can’t.”

We have to hope Ricketts won’t be saying the same thing about profits from the new DraftKings Sportsbook, which include a 10-year, $100 million sponsorship agreement. Again, none of this is new by any stretch, but what’s really wild to me is how much the new structure appears to deviate from Wrigley’s iconic architecture. The plans were apparently good enough to convince the City Council, Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and the National Park Service, though I have to imagine there was a lot more green involved than just the paint.

This is one of the few topics on which I’ll continue to be an old man yelling at a cloud, a purist — albeit one with a progressive nature — tilting at the windmills of sports gambling’s encroaching ubiquity. I’m sure I’ll get used to it in time, especially if the product on the field makes up for what’s outside of it, but this is another example of the Cubs’ business operations capitalizing on the team’s popularity by trying to sell fans something they don’t need.

With all due apologies for repeating what I’ve said several times before, it feels as though the biz ops department is taking an outsider’s perception of what it means to be a Cubs fan and then synthesizing that experience with corporate sterility. It’s difficult to mass-produce emotion in the first place, it’s impossible when the people running the factory prioritize profits over passion.

Trying to stand and scream in the face of time’s inexorable march will only leave me hoarse, so I think I’m done beating this particular dead equine. Wanna bet?


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