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The Cost of being a Chicago Cub’s Fan

Most of you reading this have already heard about the recent grounds crew debacle where they did not get the field covered in time which led to the upholding of a protest of the opposing team and forced the Cubs to continue play of the affected game a few nights later. The situation made the organization look bad and generated plenty of negative press. Then, a report surfaced that the Cubs actually sent members of the grounds crew home that very night so they could limit their hours and not have to pay their insurance. The Cubs claimed, when asked, that the forecast they received did not call for rain.

So the Cubs are cutting costs. From 2007-2013 the Cubs payroll was well over the $100 million mark. Of those years 2010 was its highest mark at over $142 million. Lately, their yearly payroll is falling fast. Their 2014 payroll is estimated at $89 million or 23rd out of the 30 MLB clubs.

The Cubs are also in full rebuilding mode under new owners the Ricketts family. The Cubs and their new owners are trying to re-write history and therefore change the longest futility streak in all of American sports. The Cubs last won the World Series 106 years ago. Tom Ricketts told his father Joe, who is founder of T.D. Ameritrade, “They sell every ticket, every game, win or lose.” Tribune, the previous owners of the Cubs bought low and sold high. In 1981 Tribune bought the Cubs for $20.5 million. While the lovable losers were living up to their nickname, attendance still greatly increased from an average of 15,423 in 1992 to an average of 40, 743 in 2008, the year before they sold 95% of the team to the Ricketts family for $845 million.

Since 2009 ticket sales at Wrigley Field are down almost 6,500 per game. And that is considering that this year is the 100th anniversary of Wrigley field. In 1984 a good box seat at Wrigley Field cost $8.00 this year for the same seat against a top team that ticket costs $116.00. According to Team Marketing Report, a company that tracks major-league ticket prices, they report that at $44.16 an average for tickets the Cubs are the 3rd highest in all of MLB behind only the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The Cubs are literally under construction. The Ricketts are the new owners, they hired Theo Epstein to be the new team president. Although the 2012 team had the fourth worst winning percentage in Club history (and that is saying a lot) the new Cubs have subtracted from the major league team and added considerably to their minor league teams. They also have spent heavily on a new spring training facility, to accompany those minor league moves.

The Chicago Cubs are showing improvement. They have some bright young stars on the major league roster, and plenty more to come in the minor leagues. But as I watched the Cubs game the other night I saw quite a few empty seats. Are the fans finally getting tired of loosing? Is it not cool to be the loveable losers anymore? Or are Cubs fans saving their money for the 2015 and 2016 seasons?

Is $44.16 to high of an average cost to be a Cubs fan? And as the team improves, as it looks like it will, what will the cost be then? If the fan base has been paying this kind of price for a loser, how much will they pay for a winner? Or maybe they are just trying to prove Tom Ricketts wrong.