Watch CBS News

Emma: Tom Ricketts' Vision Has Cubs' Brand Thriving

By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Loud chants greeted chairman Tom Ricketts as he took the stage at the annual Cubs Convention on Friday night.


Ricketts waved to the crowd with the look of joy. And ow could he not be thrilled?

When Ricketts and his family purchased the Cubs in 2009, the organization had little direction or promise. To paraphrase a fan who asked Ricketts a question at the convention: Who would've thought the Cubs could become a model franchise? Ricketts made it happen -- and now he's getting the Rocky Wirtz treatment.

"If I could copy Rocky, I would be pretty happy," Ricketts joked.

Wirtz's Blackhawks are the gold standard for model franchises -- not only in Chicago, but certainly one of the best in sports -- but the Cubs may be on their way to that stature. What Theo Epstein has built on the baseball side is impressive, done in part thanks to Ricketts making the investment. But the Cubs' business ventures are promising, too, poised to become more successful.

Ricketts defeated the rooftop owners in long-lasting legal battles and now owns 10 rooftop properties across from Wrigley Field. That's just the beginning of it. Construction continues in and around the ballpark, preserving its history and building it to last for another hundred years.

Next to Wrigley will be an extravagant plaza property, one that will house restaurants, office space and entertainment. It will host concerts, farmers markets and a winter ice rink. Underground, below this facility, will be the one of the best new clubhouses in baseball.

The 101-year-old ballpark is receiving new concrete to preserve its structure, no small measures to keep the Friendly Confines looking good.

The Cubs will build their own hotel on the northwest corner of Clark and Addison, across from the famed Wrigley marquee. It's a unique part of the $575 million investment to revamp the neighborhood.

In turn, Ricketts is making the Cubs a tourist destination of their own. Fans can stay for a three-game series without ever leaving Wrigleyville -- stay at the Cubs hotel, wine and dine at the Cubs restaurants, shop at the Cubs stores and take in Cubs games. There's more, too.

By 2020, Ricketts hopes to see through the creation of a Cubs television network, mirroring the Yankees' YES Network that launched in 2002. Ricketts sees this as the greatest undertaking in their business ventures, and as difficult and challenging as it'd be, it has potential to be the most successful -- something that surely would be bolstered by the ballclub's success.

"There's a lot of ways it could go, a lot of variables," Ricketts said. "Still don't know what's going to happen. We look forward to the day that we can have the rights package to our own channel. If there's another way to do it beforehand, we'll keep open minds.

"We got to get it right."

Ambitious plans on the business side are in the works as the Cubs enter the 2016 season as a World Series favorite. Ideally, growth will come for the baseball and business entities over the coming years, with Ricketts hoping the end result championships and the Cubs brand looking stronger than ever before.

The Cubs have come a long way under the vision of Ricketts. Now, let's see how far they can go.

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.