NEW YORK -- Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts thinks a move to the suburbs might be lucrative but says his team remains committed to refurbishing century-old Wrigley Field.
The Cubs won approval from Chicago's city council last July for a $500 million renovation that would include installation of a 5,700-square-foot video scoreboard at Wrigley, which turns 100 on April 23. The team also wants to erect a 650-square-foot sign in right field with a guarantee neighboring rooftop owners won't slow construction with a lawsuit.
A member of the audience Tuesday at the MLB Diversity Business Summit asked a panel that included Ricketts about the Atlanta Braves' planned move in 2017 from downtown to a suburban Cobb County and how the team could maintain a connection with the community near Turner Field.
Ricketts said the Cubs have been trying to avoid such an issue.
"We've been approached by several suburban sites and alternatives to move the Cubs to a new ballpark," Ricketts said, "and although I haven't studied it thoroughly, I imagine that's probably an attractive proposition for us.
"But we've made it our priority to try to stay where we're at because of what it does mean to the neighbors and what it does mean to the city, both economically and just from the standpoint of quality of life in general."
The Cubs have seen attendance drop each year since 2008, from 3.3 million to 2.6 million, and the team has lost 91 games or more in three straight seasons.
Ricketts maintained that the attendance drops provide opportunities.
"There are just way too many people in Chicago that have never been to a Cubs game," he said. "We've worked really hard to get out to people, particularly on the South Side, and say, 'Hey, bring your church, bring your school, just bring a group and we'll take care of you.' I just want more people to at least come into Wrigley and experience it. And we have this opportunity right now where we do have a few seats open from time to time. We can bring people in and give them the Wrigley experience. And as we get better, those opportunities will be harder to come by."
Ricketts also said the Cubs have to better educate the young players at their complex in the Dominican Republic and told a story from his visit there in 2010. He recalled when he "put my ear to the wall of the English class and I heard an English teacher say, "My curveball is not breaking."
"And I realized at that point while we say we're teaching these young men English, we're really not doing the best," he said, going on to explain the team's new facility has improved educational testing and programs.
"It's not really just about making sure that some of these players can speak English," he said. "All of them really aren't all that great in Spanish. They've got second- or third-grade educations."