The dream to put 40,000 Build-A-Bears in the fan-less Wrigley Field stands this season appears to be short-lived.
Professional sports teams worldwide have turned to unique measures to create a semblance of a normal atmosphere without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus. The KBO put stuffed animals in their seats; the Bundesliga has had cardboard cutouts of real fans in their seats.
The Cubs have no such plans, president of business operations Crane Kenney told 670 The Score’s Dan Bernstein on Thursday.
“I think, honestly, some of the things we've seen used, we'll say quote-unquote to enhance the broadcast, don't fit for a franchise like the Cubs in a ballpark like Wrigley Field,” Kenney told Bernstein. “And we probably would not do them.”
Kenney said the Cubs have taken note of how other leagues have handled fan-less crowds while adding the club feels they have a “little bit more of an added burden at Wrigley” to preserve the ballpark’s historic charm. He connected this to how the club handled the 106-year-old ballpark’s renovations in recent years.
Kenney told Bernstein he expects Wrigley’s surrounding rooftops to be open for the Cubs’ home opener this season. He also said he hopes the ballpark will be open to fans at reduced capacity at some point in 2020.
In the meantime, the ballpark’s seats will be empty, but the Cubs have plans to insert faux crowd noise for fans watching at home.
“I think that the audio without any, we'll call it white noise or the insertion of fan noise, is a little jarring for the television viewer,” Kenney said. “And so, you'll probably see some virtual insertion of some of the crowd noise.
“But in terms of cardboard cut-outs and some of the other things you've said, I don't think you'll see that happening with us. And then obviously, if we can bring fans into the ballpark, [there's] nothing better than the real thing.
“Even if it's a smaller crowd -- like in Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker's proposal, 8,000 — we would let that play. Cubs fans, even 8,000 of them, can make quite a bit of noise."