At Harry Caray's, where Cubs fans gather no matter the distance to opening day, sports marketing experts says new Tribune and Cubs owner Sam Zell cannot ignore the value of what he has.
"They are one of the top sports franchises in not in baseball only but in sport so we believe you are looking at close to $400 million as an opportunity for a client to come in upgrade the facility and build a new field for the Cubs to play in for the people to have a better experience," said Wally Hayward, Relay Worldwide.
That figure is based on naming rights associated with a new stadium for the New York Mets, underwritten by Citibank. And beloved names for existing facilities have been assigned to history often. In 1997 Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium became Ryan Field after a big renovation. $68m was the cost to change new Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field in 2003. And last week, The Jake in Cleveland became Progressive Field. The auto insurer paid $56 million for the privilege.
"It is a huge new marketing opportunity for Wrigley if they choose to do it to really market not just to Cubs fans but baseball fans because that location, for the new Wrigley Field whatever that name may be, is a destination for people," said Hayward.
Tom Smith, a UIC sports economist, figures those willing to outbid Wrigley risk a backlash- unless they win. Big.
"You rename the field and bring in a bunch of players and win me a World Series, I mean the Cubs a world series, then absolutely, go for it," said Smith.
What do fans think?
"If they want to keep Chicago historic they should keep the name, but any reasonable person might consider $400 million," said Julie Ivantic.
"Wrigley Field should stay Wrigley Field. I'm not sure they should pay for it," said Tony Hernandez.