Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Reinsdorf Calls For New Stadium To Compete, Chicago Mayor Weighs In


After meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf says that for the team to stay in Chicago, they need to be a consistent winner. According to Reinsdorf the only way to do that is with the revenue that a new stadium would provide. 

Reinsdorf is reportedly looking for $1 billion in public funding for the project and is facing an uphill battle to do so. In an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business, Reinsdorf provided the reasons why he feels White Sox should get the funding. 

In his view, the team cannot compete at 35th and Shields, even though Guaranteed Rate Field is only 33 years old. 

“The economics of baseball have completely changed, with top ballplayers signing contracts worth as much as $700 million,” Reinsdorf told Crain’s. “At the location we’re at now, we cannot generate the revenue needed to pay those salaries.” 

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Reinsdorf also told Crain’s the new stadium would require $1.1 billion in subsidies from an existing tax on Chicago hotel rooms as well as $900 million in infrastructure work. He hopes that construction work on the stadium will begin later this year and that the White Sox will be playing in the new location by the 2028 season. However, the Bears are also seeking money for a new stadium. Reinsdorf acknowledged that he’s had conversations with the Bears officials to keep from getting in each other’s way.

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 requesting 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.  However, the city and state would have to forgo revenue generated inside the boundaries of the project.

The current Bridgeport location is surrounded by 70 acres of parking lots. Reinsdorf would like to see more development surrounding the new stadium with the hopes that shops, bars, and entertainment venues will create a lively downtown and in turn help with ticket sales. 

This of course is laughable. Fielding a good team would help with revenue. Before the Royals inked Bobby Whitt Jr to a 11 year deal worth $288 million this offseason, the White Sox were one of just three teams who have never signed a player to a contract over $100 million in their history. It’s no coincidence that the other two teams, the Royals and Oakland Athletics, are also looking to move stadiums citing “struggling attendance.” The truth is no matter how nice the stadium is, fans will stop showing up if the on-field product is bad. 

It is also worth noting that Chicago is the third-largest market in the country. Even with the Cubs in town, being in the Chicago market should be a huge advantage. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays still manages to be consistently competitive despite playing in one of the smallest markets in the MLB and arguably the worst stadium.

Reinsdorf pushed back on the notion that poor performance of the team was the cause of attendance issues. He pointed to the 2006 season, where the White Sox “didn’t crack the 3 million mark”, something that defending World Series champions routinely accomplish.

In reality, the White Sox current agreement with the Illinois Sports Authority gives the team little motivation to have good attendance. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox must pay a fee on each ticket sold over 1.93 million in paid attendance, a total the team has reached just once (2022) in the last decade. In the first ten years of the lease, the club did not have to pay rent if annual attendance fell below $1.5 million. 

Governor JB Pritzker has already indicated that he is hesitant to use public money for the stadium. However, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is open to the idea of providing a public subsidy to build a new $1.2 billion stadium in the South Loop, if the White Sox and the developer “put some skin in the game.” 

A day after Reinsdorf traveled to Springfield to make his case for public funding, Johnson met the media. 

“As far as public dollars, we haven’t gotten into any of those specifics just yet. But I will say we’re gonna explore all options. But we have to make sure we’re doing right by the people of Chicago,” Johnson said. “Everything is on the table here. But again, I want to make sure there is a real commitment to public use and public benefit.”

Reinsdorf’s threats of moving the White Sox away from Chicago are nothing new. In 1991 Resinsdorf threatened to move the White Sox to St. Petersburg, Florida, before financing came together at the last minute to fund a new stadium which was built directly across from the original Comiskey Park. However, his push for a new stadium started a decade earlier. At one point he claimed if the White Sox did not get a new stadium they would go broke.

Reinsdorf predicts that Chicago will lose the White Sox without a new stadium. Later in his interview with Crain’s, Reinsdorf said that after his death his son Michael “will have an obligation to do what’s best” for other investors. This likely means selling the team, which in Reinsdorf’s eyes will be worth more if they are located downtown.


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Feb 22, 2024 2:31 pm

Per Ebenezer Reinsdorf: “The economics of baseball have completely changed, with top ballplayers signing contracts worth as much as $700 million. At this location we’re at now, we cannot generate the revenue needed to pay those salaries.” He said, referring to the the team’s heavily residential Bridgeport home. A new space in a livelier downtown are with shops, bars, and other entertainment venues withing walking distances should do better.” So as usual, it’s the fans fault for not coming out, being overcharged for watching minor league level players. Overpaying for parking (which goes directly into Ebenezers pocket), overpaying for food/souvenirs… Read more »

Booger McFarland
Feb 22, 2024 1:25 pm

The Sox and Bulls need a new owner to compete, Jerry.

Feb 22, 2024 11:09 am

Bye, Bye Reinsdorf and take the team with you!

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