The full text of the letter Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts sent this week to season-ticket holders, pledging efforts to improve the team and continue similar spending levels on baseball operations:
It has been an incredible year for my family in our first season as stewards of the Chicago Cubs. Of all the new experiences, none was more enjoyable than the opportunity to meet and spend time with you---our season ticket holders.
We met many of you during our game day walks through Wrigley Field. Over the course of those games, you welcomed me and my family, you shared your thoughts and suggestions on improving the team and the ballpark, we celebrated some wins and, unfortunately, suffered too many losses.
One of the highlights of the year was our first ever season ticket holder "open house" on July 8th. On that day alone I met more than 2100 of you, as we spent a day together in the greatest ballpark on earth. (For all who have inquired---yes, we are going to host that event again and in fact we will double up with a night session as well).
As our most highly valued customers, your opinions are invaluable as we move our organization forward. In fact, you will soon be contacted to participate in a quality assurance survey as we consider amenity upgrades and look to identify ways to improve your experience at Wrigley Field.
On behalf of my entire family, thank you for your warm welcome and your incredible support of the Cubs organization. You are truly our partners and we respect your contribution and insights.
The 2010 season was a disappointment for all at the major league level--for my family, for the organization, for the players and for the fans. The team showed signs of its potential the last quarter of the season, but the 75-87 record fell well short of our goals. My family is committed to winning a World Series and though it may not be entirely evident from this year's performance, there are encouraging signs.
The 2010 highlights revolved around our home grown talent. Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner developed into budding stars, with Castro and Colvin in the NL Rookie of the Year discussion. That young group was enhanced by the August promotion of Casey Coleman, who went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last four starts. All need to take the next step in 2011, but we are very encouraged to have a group of young, home grown players emerge as regulars in 2010.
We also have to recognize the superb job done by another one of our own--Mike Quade. During the final 37 games, the team played at a .649 clip (24-13), the second best record in the majors over that timeframe. Making this even more significant, we played largely against teams fighting for playoff berths.
It is my strong belief that, in the end, it is organizations with strong farm systems that win championships and I am convinced that our organization is making progress.
Our success in producing talent from within our system can be attributed to a number of factors, including a commitment of financial resources. We believe we have one of the best scouting directors in baseball in Tim Wilken (now 4 years in place) and with a strong farm director in Oneri Fleita and a very productive international effort, we are making progress in what had been a weak spot in the organization.
Our farm clubs performed very well in 2010, playing to a collective 374-316 record, with first place finishes at both the Triple-A level in Iowa (tied) and Double-A level in Tennessee . The overall .542 winning percentage was second among all major league organizations and our 374 wins were the most for the Cubs organization in 15 years. As I said at our opening press conference about a year ago, we are committed to winning the right way---with our farm system. We believe we are on the right track.
We are early in the process of building the club for 2011. The first order of business is hiring our manager. Jim Hendry has identified a strong group of candidates and we are currently completing our interviews. This is a critical decision and I am confident we will find the right person to lead the club.
The strength of our team in 2010 was our starting pitching, as we led the National League with 96 quality starts. We expect that to continue. We are excited to see the continued development of our young players and the strong bullpen work anchored by Carlos Marmol (38 saves and a reliever-franchise record 138 strikeouts) and Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA, 22 holds).
Going forward, we recognize the need to recommit to fundamentals. We need to stabilize our defense and cut down on errors. We need to improve our offense and become more efficient in both moving runners and hitting with players in scoring position. It is too early to determine whether this will be addressed with internal moves, trades or through free agent acquisitions. But we know we must improve in these areas.
Given that we had the highest payroll in the NL in 2010, I get a lot of questions about our payroll commitment for 2011. As I said earlier, we are still working on our 2011 baseball plan, so it is hard to be too specific at this time. What I can tell you is that our overall baseball budget (scouting, player development and payroll) will be about the same in 2011 as it was in 2010. Continued long term success will come through superior scouting and player development, and we are committed to improving that facet of the organization. As a result, this likely means a shift of some of our resources from the major league payroll toward scouting and player development, but we are still very much in the evaluation phase.
2011 Ticket Pricing
The other question I get regularly concerns our ticket pricing for 2011 and beyond. Overall, our average ticket price will be flat in 2011 compared to 2010. Before going into greater detail on that topic, let me provide some background.
My family is committed to providing ticket pricing that allows families to enjoy Cubs baseball. In so many ways, our children represent the next generation in the Cubs family. We want to invest in providing families with opportunities to experience Wrigley Field, including such things as running the bases, which will be continued in 2011.
To this end, we will continue the policy of keeping many of our tickets in the sub $10 range--in fact, we will offer a substantial increase in sub-$10 tickets next year compared to 2010.
In addition, we are increasing the number of bronze games (our lowest ticket pricing tier) from 6 games in 2010 to 15 games in the bleachers and 11 games in the grandstand in 2011. As a result, there will be 77% more tickets priced at $20 or less in 2011 than there were in 2010. Stated differently, a total of more than 550,000 tickets will be available for $20 or less next year.
Again, our average ticket price next year will be essentially flat compared to 2010 (actually it is fractionally down vs. 2010). This does not mean all ticket prices will be the same as last year however, as pricing was adjusted based on location and our schedule. A little background might be helpful.
To set our pricing in 2011, we examined approximately 5 million transactions from our primary and secondary ticket markets from 2005 through 2010. Our goal was to keep our average ticket price flat overall but improve the alignment of pricing for games and seating sections with actual demand. The result is a market-based ticket model that reflects our fans' buying patterns.
The highlights include: (1) reducing the average ticket price for all gold, silver and bronze games, (2) separating the bleachers and grandstands in the pricing tiers, as the buying patterns vary significantly for each area, and (3) adding a new fifth tier of pricing (Marquee Tier) for our highest demand games.
Cutting through it all, the net result for our season ticket holders is that some will see a slight (in all cases, less than 3%) increase, others will see a reduction as much as 6% and some will see virtually no change at all.
Other changes in 2011 include new season ticket holder benefits. Over the years, we have added significant benefits to being a Cubs season ticket holder, such as a dedicated area within our website, early access to Spring Training tickets and other special events (such as the very popular Dave Matthews concerts and Allstate Wrigleyville Classic football game coming in November), and last year's open house.
For 2011, there are a number of new benefits that I think you will find interesting. Among them is exclusive access to our players, coaches, manager, front office and ownership through Cubs Insider Webcasts that will occur throughout the year. In addition to updates on everything happening inside the ballclub, these webcasts will provide you the opportunity to ask questions on topics of your choice. A Season Ticket Holder Benefit page follows this letter and you should ask your Cubs representative about any of the items listed there.
Wrigley Field Renovations
Like you, we love Wrigley Field and are committed to winning a championship at the Friendly Confines. We all need to recognize, however, that our wonderful Wrigley Field is fast approaching 100 years of age and is in need of substantial improvements. We committed over $10 million to that effort last year, largely to improve restrooms, add new food options, recast concrete, upgrade steel and other general maintenance. We will continue this effort in 2011 but again the focus will be more tactical than strategic.
We spent much of the 2010 season assembling a team of renowned architects, engineers, designers and project managers to develop a master plan for a more significant Wrigley Field overhaul and Triangle Building development. Our planning will continue in 2011 and your involvement through the quality assurance surveys mentioned earlier is very important. We look forward to completing the analysis phase and getting underway with the construction and occupation phase.
Thank you again for your incredible support of Cubs baseball and the Ricketts family. We have spent our adult lives sitting next to you cheering for our team. We now have the responsibility to improve not only the play on the field but also to protect and save our summer home, Wrigley Field. With your help we will accomplish both.