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Knocking the vendors out of the park

Baseball fans walk towards an entrance of Wrigley Field.

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Steve Chiotakis: The Chicago Cubs open their final homestand of the regular season today at the venerable Wrigley Field. But action outside Wrigley is likely to be as rowdy as in the stands. Chicago Public Radio's Adrienne Hill reports an effort to simmer down some of the pre-game craziness is starting with street vendors.


Adriene Hill: Wrigley Field is right in the middle of Chicago, and it can be raucous at game time. There are ticket scalpers, and guys selling peanuts.

Peanut Guy: Peanuts, people on the outside . . .

You can get an official program for $5 -- or a less official scorecard.

Scorecard Guy: Program, score card, $1.

And there are street vendors-selling t-shirts, some of which have slogans that are nowhere near polite. There's one with a sillouette of a man in a sombrero-like hat pushing a lawnmower. It says "Pujols mows my lawn," a refrence to Albert Pujols, the Domican first baseman who plays for Cubs arch-enemy the St. Louis Cardinals.

Charles Utsler: The people love our shirts, they crack up. Sometimes they say it's a little racist. But we're having fun but it's like you know, it's a laughter. We don't really hate 'em, but it's like a sports thing.

That's street vendor Charles Utsler. Earlier this year a city official proposed a rule that would move guys like Utsler and their t-shirts away from Wrigley Field during game time, citing issues of safety and crowd control. Utsler doesn't buy it.

Utsler: At the end, it comes down to the all mighty dollar, you know. So they're trying to push us out. We're like an insect they want to step on.

Utsler thinks the Cubs and the brick and mortar stores who sell licensed Cubbies gear don't want to share fans' money with street vendors. Not so, says Jake O'Neill, who works at one of those stores. He says the street vendors sell a totally different product. There's not much overlap in their customers.

Jake O'Neill: There's just a market for those type of shirts and then there are people who want the authentic stuff, so I don't think it's a huge competition.

But there is a lot of money up for grabs here.

Victor Matheson is a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross. He says the Cubs make about $50 million in annual revenue inside the stadium on things like food and souvenirs, and they're losing out...

Victor Matheson: A typical modern stadium is a walled fortress surrounded by a big moat of parking lot which serves to drive all the economic activity inside the stadium and away from the local neighborhoods. Of course at a place like Wrigley Field that's built right into the neighborhoods, that's very, very hard to do. And so the Cubs lose a great deal of their revenue to the surrounding neighborhood.

But Matheson says the Cubs have to be careful not to drive away some of what makes Wrigley special, which for many fans includes all the hub-bub.

From Chicago, I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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