On November 30, the Wisconsin Real Estate Club and the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate hosted a unique Graaskamp on the Road event that brought together over 130 Graaskamp board members, alumni, and Wisconsin real estate students at an iconic Chicago venue, Wrigley Field. The event featured Tom Ricketts, chairman and owner of the Chicago Cubs, who was awarded the inaugural Graaskamp Center Building Communities Award in recognition of the Cubs organization’s contributions in development and positive community impact around Wrigley Field.
During his thoughtful and entertaining presentation, Ricketts shared stories about the past and his long-time relationship with the Cubs. He once lived in an apartment above Sports Corner bar and met his wife in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
“The Building Communities Award means a lot to me. It really does, for a lot of reasons,” Ricketts said in his acceptance speech. “I lived in this neighborhood 20-something years ago…I remember what the neighborhood was like. … It certainly wasn’t the neighborhood it has become. When we bought the team a few years ago, we made a high priority to make this the best neighborhood that we could.”
Ricketts and his family purchased the Chicago Cubs in 2009. They not only sought to make the team into a contender, but overhaul the Wrigleyville neighborhood. While the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, breaking a 108-year drought, there is still plenty of work to be done around Wrigley Field.
“In addition to the progress they’ve made on the field, they remain focused on restoring their beautiful ballpark and developing the surrounding area,” said Fordy Gates, a second-year MBA student at UW and the President of the UW Real Estate Club. “Halfway through the 1060 Project, the Cubs and Hickory Street Capital have made significant progress on that commitment.”
Construction continues on both Wrigley Field’s interior amenities and exterior appearance. With tight timelines and a strict deadline of completion with each annual home opener, construction crews have to tear up and reconstruct different parts of the ballpark over several seasons. The Cubs have installed video boards in the outfield, redid the bleachers and are now working on sections of seating by each dugout.
For the exterior, Ricketts and his team have a vision of restoring Wrigley Field to how it looked circa 1935. He said it looked like a “parking garage” just a decade ago.
“It’s going to be like one of those places in Europe where you’re walking through and going into the castle and run into the palace and the fountain,” Ricketts said. “It’s so beautiful that you just want to be there. That’s what our goal is with Wrigley Field. We’re getting there.”
A group of students from UW’s BBA and MBA programs had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the changes being made inside Wrigley Field and tour the construction site of the Hotel Zachary located right across the street. Local restaurants like Big Star Smoke Daddy will eventually be part of the new development.
Students also had the opportunity to network with a large group of UW alumni who attended Thursday’s award reception.
“As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the Cubs event was a great opportunity for me to see the new development in Wrigleyville and hear from the developers involved in the project,” said Justin Kremers, a first-year MBA student at UW. “Being at the award ceremony and getting to hear about the inspiration and vision for the project from Mr. Ricketts was also an incredible experience.”
The focus outside of the ballpark has been on making Wrigleyville more available and entertaining for all fans. Ricketts said while the old neighborhood may have been great for “20-something year-old guys,” there weren’t many options for families. With that in mind, they created The Park at Wrigley, a year-round entertainment space that will change from grass featuring games of catch during Cubs day games to a winter ice rink surrounded by Christkindlmarket shops.
And while Ricketts says the 1060 Project has been a great start in offering a vast array of events and opportunities for a variety of people, he’s happy to see other outside development also starting around Lakeview.
“We’ve got a group doing a big multi-use project on the south side of Wrigley. We’ve got other people doing things in the neighborhood,” Ricketts said. “Instead of this being a one-off project for us, it was really the catalyst for a complete rework of this neighborhood and we’re very proud of that.”
We would like to thank Tom Ricketts for a wonderful and informative presentation and we thank the entire Chicago Cubs organization for their support in planning the event. Additional thanks to Eric Nordness, Senior Vice President & CFO at Hickory Street Capital, for his help in organizing a fantastic development tour of the Wrigley Field campus for our Wisconsin real estate students.
We also share our gratitude with the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA) for partnering with the Graaskamp Center for another successful On the Road event as well as the Real Estate Club, and particularly co-presidents Fordy Gates (MBA '18) and Grady Capobianco (MBA '18) for their tremendous work on the event.
Thank you to our event sponsors for their support and for making it possible for so many students to attend:
- Oxford Capital Group
- Zeller Realty
- Colliers International
- AMLI Residential
- Brennan Investment Group
- Elmdale Partners
Photo credit: Steve Becker Photography.