Sunday, February 11, 2024

White Sox Stadium Proposal: What’s in Store For ‘The 78’ Project

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Renderings of the White Sox proposed stadium in Chicago’s South Loop at the “The 78” were released by WGN this week, as all signs point to 2028 being the final season of White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field.



In a WGN exclusive, Related Midwest, the property owners of The 78, and the White Sox revealed their pitch for a new stadium. This included renderings of the ballpark, a site master plan, and the projected economic impact of the project. Given all the momentum the project has it is hard to see the White Sox turning back now. 

The stadium is projected to draw 5 million annual visitors. This is despite the fact the White Sox have drawn over 2 million in total attendance just once in the last decade. For reference, the Cubs, who are a much more popular team and play in a historic tourist destination at Wrigley Field, have ranked in the top five in the MLB in total attendance. The most they have drawn in total annual attendance in the last decade is just over 3.2 million people. Even with concerts and other events at the White Sox new stadium, it is hard to see them consistently drawing 5 million in annual visitors, especially once the novelty of the new stadium wears off. 

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The project is also expected to be a $9 billion investment in Chicago, $4 billion in stabilized annual economic impact, create 32,000 jobs, 1,000 affordable units, $200 million in annual tax revenue, over ten acres of space for the community, and 1,300 residential units. Of those 32,000 new jobs, 10,000 of them are expected to be construction jobs, while 22,000 would be permanent jobs, according to the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Many fans have pointed out the apparent lack of parking spaces in the renderings. However, the  62 acres of land is next to the Metra Rock Island line and the CTA Red, Orange, and Green Lines. The rendering also points to water taxis along the Chicago River as a way for fans to access the ballpark. Several bus lines also provide access to the area. 

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.

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. 

Some big names have already voiced their support for the project. The Chicago Federation of Labor’s president Bob Reiter called the project “very exciting for the city”

“Creating this neighborhood on that tract of land that’s been waiting to be developed for such a long time is going to be great and this is the right project,” Reiter told Crains’s Chicago Business in January.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred also told Crains, the project was 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.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson has also had conversations with Reinsodrf about the potential move. He told reporters in January that his conversation with Reinsdorft had been “positive” and that the presentation he was shown detailed the way the new stadium could look and all of its community benefits. 

What’s Next For 35th and Shields? 

Related Midwest also detailed plans as to what would happen to the area surrounding Guaranteed Rate Field if the team moves. The renderings show the baseball stadium being repurposed into a soccer stadium. The Chicago Fire currently play at Solider Field, but with the Chicago Bears in talks to move elsewhere, it is unclear what will happen to the Fire’s current home. The Chicago Red Stars already play in Bridgeview at SeatGeek Stadium but could move into Guaranteed Rate Field in 2029 after the White Sox lease is up. 

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. Some of the parking lots surrounding Guaranteed Rate Field are expected to be turned into housing units. Related Midwest described their plans as creating “active streets and new housing opportunities on a “reimagined campus”.

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