A day after its owners, the Tribune Company, filed for bankruptcy protection, the Chicago Cubs separately announced that the team was planning to raise prices on most tickets for the 2009 season.
The Cubs are one of the most popular teams in baseball, and whether at Wrigley Field or on the road they move tickets. Monday’s bankruptcy filing by the Tribune does not involve the team, but in a surreal twist the team was mentioned as a pawn in the federal criminal complaint of alleged corruption charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which was handed down today. The Cubs are not accused of any wrongdoing, in fact, federal prosecutors allege that Blagojevich threatened to hold up potential state funding to facilitate the sale of the Cubs if the Chicago Tribune did not stop unfavorable coverage of him.
“The Chicago Cubs are not included in Tribune’s restructuring and the business and baseball operations of the Cubs continue independent of Tribune’s decision to restructure its debt,” the team said in a statement Monday. “The sales process for the team, ballpark and related assets continues and its timetable for completion remains unchanged by today’s announcement by Tribune. It is business as usual at Wrigley Field as the Cubs continue to prepare for the 2009 season. We remain exclusively focused on our singular goal of securing a World Championship for our fans and the city of Chicago.”
For more than a year, the Cubs have been for sale, along with Wrigley Field and the cable network that carries the team’s games, and estimates place the potential sale at more than $1 billion. But, the slowing economy and subsequent credit crunch have held up the potential deal, as have recent allegations of insider trading against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is believed to be one of the top bidders for the franchise.
“Over the last year, we have made significant progress internally on transitioning Tribune into an entrepreneurial company that pursues innovation and stronger ways of serving our customers,” Samuel Zell, Tribune chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, at the same time, factors beyond our control have created a perfect storm — a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy coupled with a credit crisis that makes it extremely difficult to support our debt.”
Cubs ticket prices will range from a low of $9 to a high of $100 in 2009, according to the Tribune, but tickets for about 33 percent of the seats will remain unchanged.
“We’re going to leave ticket prices flat for 33 percent of the park and then selectively raise prices for our best inventory in other places,” Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney told the Tribune. “We used to have regular, value and prime. We’re now using the Olympic medals — gold, silver and bronze — and we’ve added a platinum level. The big change is [putting] 14 games into the platinum level. In general, that is driving our ticket increases.”
The $9 seat in 2009 was $8 in 2008, while the $100 seat was $75 in 2008. In addition, some bleacher seats that were $45 in 2008 will now cost $60.