No Bud sign, but Weber to debut for opener

CHICAGO -- When the Chicago Cubs kick off the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field celebration Friday, they'll do so without a giant Budweiser sign in the outfield.

The much-debated Bud sign won't be up for Opening Day, the Cubs confirmed to ESPN Chicago. The sign, and the planned videoboard in left field, have been at the forefront of the year-plus squabbling with the rooftop owners, who have a contract to protect their views. The Cubs had intimated the Budweiser sign, part of a new 10-year, $140 million exclusive marketing deal, will be up this season.

Instead, the Cubs will debut a much smaller outfield wall sign.

The Cubs inked a new multiyear partnership with Weber and the Chicago-based grill manufacturer is getting ad placement on a small outfield door. Joining Target and Under Armour, there will be a white silhouette of Weber's signature round grill mixed in the iconic ivy-covered wall.

"We think it's a company that's synonymous with baseball, the summer, drinking beer, and it's a local Chicago-based company," Cubs vice president of sales and partnerships Colin Faulkner said.

The Cubs were approved to add 45,000 square feet of new advertising in regard to the $500 million planned expansion of Wrigley Field and the surrounding campus, but don't expect to see a glut of new ads around the park this season. As of Tuesday, the Cubs could only confirm the Weber sign.

But that doesn't stop the Cubs from signing new deals. Weber joins Kraft and Giordano's as high-profile new sponsors this season. Kraft is partnering with the Cubs at the "Decade Diner," formerly known as Sheffield Grill near Gate D, to serve themed food to honor the Wrigley centennial.

Kraft, which is celebrating "100 years of cheese-making," will have themed recipes for each decade. The Cubs also have historically-themed hot dogs and alcoholic drinks, along with giveaways.

Local pizzeria Giordano's is the new pizza provider at Wrigley, replacing D'Agostino's, which had a brief partnership with the Cubs. Giordano's employees will cook up the deep dish pizza at a Wrigley concourse kitchen.

The Cubs are also implementing a pilot program to introduce mobile ticketing for season-ticket holders. A cross-section of season-ticket holders will be invited to participate in the program, which will allow them to manage, distribute and scan season tickets for use at the park. The White Sox instituted a similar program last year and have expanded it this season to all ticket holders who buy online.

The Cubs are also testing out a rewards program in conjunction with the mobile option in a control group of season-ticket holders. Fans who make use of the mobile option will be given points that are redeemable for experiences and prizes.

"We want to test the rewards program and see if it influences people's behavior," Faulkner said.

While the Cubs are intent on going digital with tickets, they've also managed to create a good problem by making their ticket presentation so well designed. Even fans who buy tickets online often ask the ticket department for paper copies.

"We put ourselves in a tough situation making them so attractive," Faulkner said.