Asking $9.8 million for one small home near Wrigley Field

The property near Wrigley Field is getting quite valuable – at least according to the asking price:

In the world of real estate, location means everything. But does a property around the corner from Wrigley Field command $9.8 million? The sellers of 3710 N Kenmore Ave. realize that there is much more to the property than the two-story frame house that sits on it. The property has some potential to earn a few bucks and the listing agent is suggesting that investors consider erecting rooftop advertising (specifically a digital billboard) on the site. The Ricketts family have famously scooped up several of the surrounding rooftop properties, but this property is billing itself as one of the few that is not under the control of the Cubs organization. Broker Amy Duong of Jameson Sotheby’s Intl Realty tells us that the seller has been paying attention to sales in the neighborhood, notably the McDonald’s parking lot that the Ricketts family paid $20 million for. Duong also tells us that there’s no mistake in the price in the listing and the seller is fine with sitting on the house until a reasonable offer comes forth.

Perhaps the asking price was influenced by the success of the team this past season. More wins and young talent mean that property values may go up even more. In contrast, look at the land near U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago’s South Side. While that land is not easily converted to party/retail/restaurant space like the properties near Wrigley, imagine if the team was good for a number of years. Wouldn’t businesses and residents want to be part of the scene?

I’m guessing the property won’t sell soon for anywhere near this initial price but why not ask for the moon while the team is winning and the owners are spending money on property and renovations?

Wrigley Field and the suburbanization of sports stadiums

Cheryl Kent looks at the proposed plans for renovating Wrigley Field and concludes it makes the ballpark less urban:

The trouble is the Cubs are also pitching a plan for a kind of baseball theme park that pretends to authenticity while proposing to damage the integrity of the real deal: Wrigley Field. The Cubs want Ye Olde Baseball Mall, except with a Jumbotron and a rival entryway to the stadium…

The proposal is modeled after the “festival marketplace” approach launched in Boston with the renovation of historic Faneuil Hall as Faneuil Hall Marketplace by Benjamin Thompson in 1976. In a series of legendary projects, including work on Navy Pier in the mid-’90s, Thompson enticed people to visit the cities by promising safe, orchestrated experiences, with an emphasis on charm over authenticity and spontaneity.

In time, and as cities regained cachet, the marketplace approach came to represent a suburban take on cities that downplayed genuine urban diversity and vitality while assuming a defensive, apologetic crouch when it came to design.

Thompson was brilliant and a visionary, producing work more nuanced than subsequent formulaic applications reflect. But his work was driven by a condition that has disappeared — white flight to the suburbs. The planned renovation of Navy Pier, intended in large part to downplay its carnival aspects, is evidence the formula is outdated.

In other words, the proposed plans are a Disneyfied version of Wrigley Field and truly urban areas. It might look urban but it is a theme park version meant to encourage consumerism. This reminds me of sociologist Mark Gottdiener’s book The Theming of America as well as the work of other urban sociologists about public spaces. Genuine public spaces, like the ones Elijah Anderson talks about in The Cosmopolitan Canopy, allow all people the opportunity to enjoy and interact. In this proposed Wrigley Field, it is all about the Cubs and expanding their revenue base.

Kent doesn’t say as much about how the Cubs might renovate Wrigley Field to better fit with the city. The biggest problem here seems to be that the Cubs are likely to insist their changes are necessary because they will cover the costs of the renovation as well as make them money. Sports team owners don’t exactly have a good record of truly caring whether their teams and properties fit with the city.

Describing a “baseball McMansion”

The term McMansion is generally a pejorative word, typically referring to the size or the poor architecture of a home or the cookie-cutter nature of a suburban neighborhood. Occasionally, it gets applied to others structures, even baseball stadiums.  In a review of Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants, a writer suggests that another spring training facility, Salt Water Fields, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, is more like a McMansion than a home:

Salt River Fields, someone said later, “isn’t spring training.” It’s a baseball McMansion. Scottsdale Stadium just feels like home.

Here is a little more of the description of the two ballparks. Scottsdale Stadium is described as, “intimate and evocative of its sport,” “the Cactus League’s quaintest stadium,” “The place blends into the landscape as if Frank Lloyd Wright had come back from the grave to assist the architects who replaced the old wooden park 20 years ago,” and “There is no such thing as a mediocre seat.” In contrast, here is how Salt River Fields is described: “The world up there seemed so different, the trip should have required a passport,” “Salt River Fields sits next to a Target and movie multiplex. Concrete rules the landscape, offset by some sprouting trees and cactus gardens,” “The parking lot and the walkways at the new stadium consume more space than the entire Giants facility,” and “Shade, like everything else, is more abundant than at the Giants’ park.” Overall, Salt River Fields is more suburban, bigger, less intimate, and features more space (particularly in the parking lots) while Scottsdale Stadium is more like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

It would be interesting to find out how fans respond to these two settings. Both offer certain amenities. Not everyone likes cozier, more intimate facilities like Wrigley Field. While Cubs fans tend to like the place, many others (including other teams) complain about the lack of space and outdated facilities (like the bathrooms). Additionally, we could ask whether Scottsdale Stadium really is authentic or simply borrows architectural and design features from other successful ballparks and tries to put them all together.
Ultimately, will baseball fans go in greater numbers to Scottsdale Stadium because of its design and atmosphere and avoid Salt Water Fields with its McMansion nature?

Assessing the final Cubs home game

My wife and I were in attendance at the Cubs final home game yesterday, an 8-7 loss at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. Some thoughts on watching a fifth place team on a chilly day in late September:

1. It was still fun to be at Wrigley Field. Despite the chilly weather, there was still a good crowd (though nowhere near the 38,000 announced). The baseball game was interesting as the Cubs rallied late to close within one run but the Cardinals escaped.

1a. Even athletic events with bad teams can be entertaining: we saw lots of walks and runs. One thing that keeps me going through a 162-game baseball season is the possibility of seeing something new/extraordinary/odd.

2. And yet there was a wistfulness in the air: another Cubs season has gone by the wayside. The energy of having new owners has worn off. The buzz from the 2007 and 2008 teams making the playoffs has worn off. The rosters for both teams, particularly the Cubs pitching staff, were full of Triple-A players. In contrast to the optimism of Opening Day and April (where it can also be chilly and grey), there was no optimism here.

2a. I admit that I have not kept up with the Cubs in recent months. Part of this is due to being busy at work but it is mostly due to the team being out of contention for a long time. It was good to reconnect for an afternoon and think about what the 2011 Cubs might look like.

2b. If the 2009 season wasn’t enough to convince people that the Cubs are not a consistent contending team (which was the thought after the 2007 and 2008 season), this 2010 should be proof. The 2011 Cubs will be young and they need to start over agin.

3. There were quite a few Cardinals fans in the stands. I think one side effect of websites like StubHub is it means more fans from more places can buy tickets to games rather than having to make a long drive and hope you can get decent tickets. In games that I have been to this year in Atlanta, St. Louis, and Chicago, there has been a decent amount of fans from the opposing team. (This might also be due to the mobility of the American people – there might legitimately be a decent number of Dodgers fans living in Atlanta these days.) Even though there was some back and forth between the fans (like when Albert Pujols was intentionally walked twice or the Cubs were making a comeback), the Cardinals fans weren’t too energetic as well.

Finding community in the Wrigley bleachers

In the midst of a gloomy Cubs season, a new book titled Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers might provide some hope. Not written by just a normal fan, it is written by an anthropologist. The website Bleed Cubbie Blue provides some insights into the book’s content:

Before I tell you about this book, you should know a couple of things. First, Holly Swyers, who is an assistant professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College, is one of the “Wrigley Regulars” and has been a personal friend of mine for more than ten years. She asked me (and other regulars) to read through her drafts to make sure all the facts were correct, and that means you’ll find things about me (and about this site) in the book. It’s also written not just about baseball and the Wrigley bleachers, but it’s designed to be a college-level sociology/anthropology textbook about communities and how they come together…

This book is highly recommended for anyone who’s a Cubs fan — or baseball fan — to understand why some of us spend so much time in the bleachers. Yes, it’s about baseball, but as Holly points out, it’s also about community and those you get to know so well over the course of many baseball seasons become family. We all found this out just within the last week, when someone who is a bleacher season ticket holder and one of the “Wrigley Regulars” became seriously ill. The outpouring of love and concern I saw everyone show is a perfect example of the family and community that Holly writes about.

A couple of quick thoughts:

1. This sounds like a fun research task.

2. I haven’t read the book but I’ll take a quick guess at the premise: American community has declined over time as we have become more individualized and separated from others. Here, in the unlikely setting of the Wrigley Field bleachers, strangers came together, not just for Cubs game but for authentic social relationships that transcended typical social categories that tend to separate people (social class, age, gender, etc.).

3. The plug from Bleed Cubbie Blue brings up an interesting point: sports isn’t just about competition and winning for fans. Perhaps for males in particular, sports allows people to build bonds over an external focus. A friendly relationship or community can develop without having to sit down and have deep conversations.