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Only 2 concerts booked at Wrigley so far this year, fewest since 2013

Fans enjoy the Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers anniversary tour at Wrigley Field on Thursday, June 29, 2017. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Since Wrigley Field began a push to host more concerts over a decade ago, the ballpark has attracted a number of high-profile artists — including Billy Joel, Pearl Jam and Fall Out Boy — that performed nine sold-out shows last summer and a record 10 concerts in 2017.

This summer, though, only two concerts are scheduled for the Friendly Confines on June 14 and 15. And both of those shows will feature the same performers: Dead & Company, a band made up of three former Grateful Dead members, John Mayer and others.

In recent years, the full lineup of shows at Wrigley has been announced by the end of January. Joel, who has performed at the stadium every year since 2014, is not yet on the schedule, although he has several dates booked already at other venues this summer and fall.

The last time the park held only two shows was 2013, and the last time the park hosted only one performer was 2011.

Billy Joel performs at Wrigley Field, Friday night, Aug. 11, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Billy Joel performs at Wrigley Field, Friday night, Aug. 11, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

So what’s going on this year?

“There’s no specific reason beyond availability of tour artists and the baseball schedule that helps determine when we can book an act,” said Cubs spokesman Julian Green.

Though it’s only a couple months before the summer concert season kicks into high gear, Green said there could still be additions made to this year’s list. He declined to give further details.

A spokeswoman for Live Nation, which books concerts at Wrigley, declined to comment.

Green said the Cubs “would love” for Wrigley to be a top concert venue every year — as some websites ranked the ballpark last year — but that certain circumstances would have to align for that many concerts to consistently be booked. Those factors range from the number of artists on tour in a given year to the availability of the artists and whether their schedules mesh with those of Wrigley and the Cubs.

Green said there hasn’t been a decline in interest from performers to put on shows at ballpark, which has held 50 concerts since 2005.

“We have daily conversations with artists for future concerts,” Green said. “Wrigley will continue to be a popular destination for artists across the country. It’s a great place to have a concert.”

He said there was no specific yearly goal for the number of shows the team hosts and downplayed the importance of concerts to the overall enterprise: “Our primary business is baseball, and the concert business has been a net positive and we will continue to pursue those,” Green said. “We have absolutely no worries about concert business at Wrigley going forward.”

Loss of revenue for city, county?

If the stadium does end up hosting just two shows this season, that will mean a pretty big loss of revenue to the team but also to the city, county and local businesses.

The city of Chicago and Cook County made more than $3.4 million off amusement taxes from the sale of tickets to concerts at Wrigley in 2018, according to the Cubs’ annual “Neighborhood Protection Report.” The Cubs also said businesses around the ballpark reported higher foot traffic.

While the team says it’s not worried about the lack of bookings so far this year, the Cubs fought tooth and nail over the years to be able to host more concerts and other events — as well as more night games.

In 2017, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lift the cap on night games at Wrigley to allow for the 54 games under the lights that most other Major League teams play.

Emanuel rejected the plea, telling the Cubs to live with their decision to use some of the allotted number of night events to hold concerts instead of games. The mayor noted at the time that the combination of night games and concerts totaled 46 that year, which came “really close to the 54” that Kenney had requested.

The team was offered more “evening opportunities” and “they chose to use those evening opportunities for concerts. … They could have used it for night games,” the mayor said at the time.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) — who has been in frequent spats with Cubs management over the years — said his office had nothing to do with the decline in the number of shows this summer. His best guess was that the Cubs faced difficulties in scheduling.

Tunney, though, wasn’t complaining about the drop in concerts because he never thought Wrigley would host as many events as it did the past two years. Over the years neighbors have logged a number of complaints about loud concerts, particularly when a rain-delayed Pearl Jam performance went until 2 a.m. in 2013.

“We thought it would be few and far between,” Tunney said. “Not 10.”