Jan 22, 2024 - News

New White Sox stadium could transform South Loop

Aerial view of Chicago skyline with grass, streets and river.

"The 78." Photo: Courtesy of Bryn Parks/Related Midwest

The White Sox are not just exploring a new stadium in the South Loop, they are looking to anchor an entirely new city neighborhood.

Why it matters: The team and developers are hoping that a new stadium could create a new economic center along Clark Street just south of Roosevelt Road.

What they're saying: "I believe the proposed Chicago White Sox stadium can be a positive anchor for the new 78 community," Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said in a statement.

  • "The addition of significant market and affordable housing, retail, and a world class baseball stadium and concert venue can be the sort of catalytic investment the city needs."

Yes, but: Dowell cautioned that it is early in the process and financials have yet to be worked out.

Context: The Sox have confirmed they are in "serious" talks to build a new stadium at "The 78" — a megadevelopment planned along the south branch of the Chicago River. Developers claim it will be the 78th "community area" in the city.

  • "The 78" plans include residences, commercial properties and a new research center already under construction for the University of Illinois.
  • It's being developed by Related Midwest, which also put in a bid for the Chicago casino.

The intrigue: The White Sox could build a sports entertainment district around a new stadium on the 62-acre lot that would feature restaurants, hotels and live music venues, similar to new professional baseball-centric districts in cities including Atlanta and Dallas.

The other side: Critics are already complaining about future traffic headaches. Plus, Chicago taxpayers have shown they're not interested in supporting Chicago teams' new stadiums.

  • Financing proposals for the new stadium idea have remained a mystery.
  • While Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already signaled that he wouldn't support public financing, he also noted the state does use funds to support infrastructure projects for all types of businesses.
  • Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) also met with the Sox and the developer. Lee said the proposal was impressive but "the thought of the Sox being located somewhere other than Bridgeport is admittedly difficult to stomach."

Between the lines: You don't have to go far to see what the White Sox covet: Wrigley Field's renovations led to an overhaul of the Wrigleyville neighborhood.

  • The Ricketts family not only upgraded the park but also invested heavily in the surrounding area, attracting restaurants, hotels and entertainment.
  • The White Sox play in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood but have never developed that kind of influence on it beyond hot dog stands, taverns and souvenir shops.
  • Much of that has to do with parking: its lots are fenced in and flow directly to the ballpark.
Photo of buildings next to a stadium
Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Zoom in: The stadium activity comes as popularity in the South Side franchise is waning after one of the most disappointing seasons in team history. Also, a shooting at Guaranteed Rate Field remains unsolved.

  • According to Forbes, the Sox saw Major League Baseball's biggest drop in attendance in 2023.

Of note: Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf also reportedly met with the mayor of Nashville about relocating, even though the club is under contract with its stadium through 2029.

Flashback: This isn't the first time Reinsdorf has explored leaving.

  • The Sox famously tried to leave for Florida in 1988, but then-Gov. Jim Thompson and a young(er) Democratic speaker named Michael Madigan maneuvered to use hotel taxes to fund the Bridgeport stadium.
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