Other teams sought advice from Hickory Street Capital after it developed Gallagher Way and other projects next to Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Getty Images)

Marquee Development an offshoot of Ricketts-owned Hickory Street Capital

The real estate group tied to the Chicago Cubs has expanded its operations to include partnering with other teams on mixed-use projects, according to Eric Nordness, senior vice president of Hickory Street Capital.

Marquee Development, the name of the new entity, is an offshoot of Hickory Street Capital, which is owned by the Ricketts family, the Cubs’ owner, and which served as developer for Hotel Zachary and Gallagher Way, a mix of retail stores, restaurants and bars next to Wrigley Field.

On the development side, officials formed Marquee Development after seeing a demand for real estate services revolving around entertainment districts and other mixed-use projects in other markets. 

Over the past few years, the Cubs have given dozens of tours of Wrigley Field renovations plus the  entertainment district for teams interested in building districts outside the walls of their arenas and stadiums. In Chicago, the $250 million mixed-use project encompassed 500,000 square feet.

“After a while, we started scratching our heads, saying, ‘Everybody keeps knocking on our doors, asking for our advice and we’re sharing information … maybe there’s a business here,’” Nordness said. 

Marquee Development can serve as a consultant or a partner by co-investing with a team, he said. 

To this point, Marquee Development has had discussions with a half-dozen teams across all five major leagues, including Major League Soccer, which has multiple stadium projects set to open over the next five years. Together, they’re all interested in how to grow the fan experience outside their venues and generate revenue from those ancillary developments. 

No deals have been signed, Nordness said.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of teams going to their local or regional developers for that skill set and trying to marry sports with it, which can work,” he said. “But there’s a lot of value being left on the table when they do that and things we’ve learned through the process. This stuff gets mucky at the ground level with retail, open-air events and where the experience starts outside, and sponsorship activation.”

Marquee Development joins Marquee Network, the Cubs’ new television network launching in 2020, and Marquee 360, the team’s premium seat and marketing agency which has deals with the PGA Champions Tour for a pro-am tournament and the Innings Festival, a two-day live music event. Both events are in greater Phoenix. 

On the team side, Cale Vennum, Marquee 360’s senior vice president, said the company is being selective before signing its first consulting deal.

“We feel like we did something unique at Wrigley (with $760 million in ballpark upgrades) and the marketplace has responded to it from a fan perspective as well as from other teams and brands,” Vennum said. “If you look back at the approach we took along the way, we were thoughtful that our design was additive to the Wrigley experience and we never placed a partnership in a place that took away from that. We have a different approach that we think will resonate with other teams.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since it was first published.