The Cubs Convention, the longest running fan fest in pro sports, is the latest event to be canceled because of COVID-19.
The 2021 convention was scheduled for Jan. 15-17 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, where it has been held for the last eight years.
“When we thought about producing an event of this size and magnitude in a pandemic environment, it was just not practical given the constraints of unknown hotel constrictions,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “We still don’t know what’s possible in a hotel environment and given an unknown capacity for mass gatherings and events in the future, and other circumstances beyond our control, we felt the practical decision was to cancel it for next January.”
The Cubs Convention began in 1986, spawning an offseason marketing event that has since been emulated by dozens of other pro teams.
Green said the Cubs could hold some virtual events for fans, as they’ve done with season ticket holders in the last few months, featuring Cubs President Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and Chairman Tom Ricketts.
“There is no other choice for organizations than to be creative in this environment,” Green said.
MLB’s season begins July 23 in empty stadiums, and the Cubs open on July 24 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. The games will be televised on Marquee Sports Network, which still doesn’t have a carriage agreement with Comcast, the biggest cable provider in Chicago.
Green said the Cubs are “still hopeful a deal gets done” but had no update.
Green said the Cubs hope to “welcome a portion of fans back into the ballpark” at some point in 2020, but admitted it would be “challenging” in this environment. The 2021 schedule has been released, but the Cubs haven’t announced when ticket packages would need to be renewed.
“We would love to be able to preserve some value for season-ticket holders this season before we start talking about renewals for next season,” he said.
The Cubs have either refunded or credited season ticket holders for games that already have been canceled, and offered a 5% credit for those who put their payment toward 2021 season tickets.
Tickets for the team-owned rooftops went on sale Friday, and Green said the Cubs already sold a couple hundred tickets. The Cubs are one of the only teams with a view inside the ballpark, making Cubs fans among the few who can actually watch a game. One rooftop was selling tickets for $379 for the opener, while most games are between $199 and $339.
The Cubs gained approval from the city for night games on Friday and Saturday, which they said would allow visiting teams to avoid spending an extra day in hotel rooms.
“We’re very thankful to Ald. (Tom) Tunney and Mayor (Lori) Lightfoot,” Green said. “That is going to allow our team and the visiting team to limit nights in a hotel. Being able to fly in the day of the game will help limit that exposure (to COVID-19).”
The Cubs are also working with the city to try to shut down Clark Street from Addison Street to Waveland Avenue for nine non-gameday weekends to allow street dining for the restaurants on the block that partner with the Cubs.
“We think we can responsibly operate this,” Green said, adding “it’s clear we won’t be welcoming fans in the distant future, so welcoming fans across the street from the ballpark is an alternative option.”
Other parts of the North Side have closed streets, but that plan has met resistance from the Chicago Police Department because Clark Street is one of the busier streets in Wrigleyville.
The Cubs also would like to open Gallagher Way for a limited number of fans, though the city might be concerned about drawing crowds to the area.
“Every decision we make will be driven by science and medicine,” Green said. “But at the same time, we have to find a way to keep our fans connected to this brand.”
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