Friday, April 19, 2024

MLB Commissioner Calls White Sox Potential Stadium Move A ‘Game Changer’

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News of the White Sox plans to build a new stadium in the South Loop has reached the ears of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. In an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business, Manfred gave the move his stamp of approval, calling it a “game changer.”

“Jerry [Reinsdorf] is very bullish on the location,” Manfred said.  “That would be a great deal for the city of Chicago and the White Sox.”

Manfred told Crain’s that he was briefed on the move and pointed out the stadium’s “proximity to downtown”.

The White Sox are reportedly targeting a plot of land known as “The 78”. The 78 has 62 acres of undeveloped land near the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Clark Street. Developers hope the White Sox can provide a much-needed boost for their efforts to find additional funding and tenets, with their stadium serving as the anchor of The 78. Currently, an academic building known as the Discovery Partners Insititute is set to be the first tenet on The 78. The MLB hopes the move will attract more fans with added entertainment and transportation options. 

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The land the White Sox are considering is close to the CTA’s Red, Green, and Orange lines at Roosevelt Station. A source in the initial Sun-Times report about the stadium talks also said that water taxis could be used as a way to help shuttle fans to games with the Chicago River located just west of the proposed site.

Stadium renderings show a state-of-the-art stadium along the Chicago River. Home plate is located in the southwest corner, with views behind the plate facing the Chicago skyline. A large jumbotron overlooks a large plaza to the north. A public plaza is set up outside the ballpark along the Chicago River, and newly developed towers surround the area. It is unclear if they are for residential or commercial use or a mix of both.

Guaranteed Rate Field is currently surrounded by 70 acres of parking lots. The lack of development surrounding the ballpark is one of the reasons that Reinsdorf is looking for a new stadium location 

Manfred also said in the interview that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf had assured him the potential move would require “no new taxes”. 

The White Sox current agreement with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns Guaranteed Rate Field, is a very team-friendly deal and places a heavy burden on the taxpayers. The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois contribute $5 million annually to help fund the ballpark. The White Sox only pays $1.5 million in annual rent and controls revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and merchandise. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Illinois Sports Authority is not currently involved in discussions about the new stadium. However, according to a previous report from Crain’s, Related Midwest, who owns the 78, has already secured Tax Incremental Financing that would help support the project. Reinsdorf and the White Sox are expected to request state legislators to authorize the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to extend or issue new bonds, utilizing the existing 2% hotel occupancy tax currently allocated for repaying bonds associated with Guaranteed Rate Field. This proposal doesn’t involve imposing a new tax but aims to extend the duration or potentially introduce new bonds.

Related Midwest has already met with the Chicago Federation of Labor president, Bob Reiter, who called the project “very exciting for the city.”

The White Sox current lease at Guaranteed Rate Field ends in 2029.

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