Cubs look to oust scalpers

Updated: October 24, 2012, 6:58 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Faced with declining attendance and the pressures of running a rebuilding team, the Chicago Cubs are going to battle against an opponent they think they can beat: ticket scalpers.

The Cubs sent out 45 nonrenewal letters to a select group of season-ticket holders Wednesday, noting that season tickets "are a revocable license granted on a yearly basis at the sole discretion of the team."

The Cubs feel confident their research in trying to identify potential scalpers is correct, and only professional ticket sellers, many of whom have out of state addresses, were affected, according to one Cubs source, who said: "This is about the guy in California with 40 tickets."

Green said the team has gotten feedback from ticket holders who received the email Wednesday. The team expects these letters to be challenged, but they fall back on the language in season-ticket agreements that gives them the right to revoke ticket rights.

About 1,000 tickets will be made available to fans on the season-ticket waiting list and possibly for upgrades for current season-ticket holders.

While the Cubs do not mention ticket scalping in the letter, this is a clear move to target ticket brokers, scalpers and the operators of the online secondary marketplace. The Cubs believe it will benefit current season-ticket holders who want to resell their seats but face stiff competition from brokers.

"This move does not impact season-ticket holders who want to resell tickets because they can't attend the game," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in a phone conversation. "This is about getting tickets in the hands of fans who want to enjoy Cubs baseball and experience Wrigley Field."

The Cubs won't be alone in this practice. A baseball source outside of Chicago told ESPN Chicago that other big-market teams are plotting similar plans to oust scalpers from their season-ticket rolls.

Major League Baseball's deal with StubHub is up for renewal after this season and some teams aren't happy with the current arrangement, which they feel directs fans to StubHub over their own website.

"StubHub is a partner of ours, and that deal is up," Green said. "This move is not about a salvo to third-party ticket providers. This is about getting tickets to fans who intend to go to Cubs games."

The Cubs do not release their season ticket base number, but their season low for a game was 25,891 on Thursday, Sept. 20, and a Cubs source said the number for full-season plans is around that number. The Cubs averaged 35,590 fans a game this past year, down 1,669 from 2011.

The Cubs are having their annual seat relocation event during the last week of November and plan to invite potential season-ticket holders to the park in December to discuss ticket options. All of these seats will go into season tickets.

Season-ticket holders who lost their season tickets will not be banned from buying single-game seats and reselling them, Green said. He added that the Cubs' in-house secondary marketing ticket option, Wrigley Field Premium Tickets, does not use season tickets.

"We believe we have an opportunity to make sure our tickets are going to as many fans as possible," Green said. "We understand this is tough news but frankly, we're in our rights to do so. The Cubs are clear this is a revokable license granted on a yearly basis."

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.