The Go-Go Sox might be moving just a little bit north, to the parcel of land known as The 78.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that the team has been in serious talks with developer Related Midwest and the city about building a new stadium at the site bordered by the south branch of the Chicago River, Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.
But that would mean packing their bags and leaving the team’s home for more than a century: Bridgeport.
The White Sox’s lease is coming up at Guaranteed Rate Field and they’ll need about six years to plan ahead, according to Marc Ganis, president of sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.
“Jerry Reinsdorf is in his mid-to-late 80s. He does want to leave the team in good hands and in Chicago. He is committed to the city,” Ganis said. “This site is a great site. Related Midwest has come out and said some public statements about it and it would really be a major step forward for the White Sox if they could build a new ballpark on this site.”
Could this be a home run for the Sox or is it another strike out for a team having troubles on the field? Experts say the amount of transportation options surrounding the 78 could be a boost for the team.
“It’s still the South Side of Chicago, so they’d stay at home and in a really great location,” said Sinhue Mendoza, a sports consultant based in Chicago. “The 78 is something that was explored in the late ‘60s. That area was actually explored as a place to put sports teams and I think it was a missed opportunity then. This is a perfect opportunity for the White Sox to stay on the South Side of Chicago, but in the South Loop, somewhere that’s very well developed next to very good transportation, and not too far from Wintrust Arena and Soldier Field.”
Ald. Pat Dowell, whose 3rd Ward includes The 78, met with the development team at Related Midwest last week and said in a statement she’s impressed with what she’s heard so far.
“I believe the proposed Chicago White Sox stadium can be a positive anchor for the new 78 community. Assuming the financial details can be worked out, this development shows promise as a great growth opportunity for the City of Chicago,” Dowell’s statement reads. “The addition of a significant market and affordable housing, retail, and a world-class baseball stadium and concert venue can be the sort of catalytic investment this city needs.
The big question though is who would pay for this new stadium. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has aid he’s not in favor of using public money to fund private businesses, but said the government has options when it comes to supporting infrastructure and development across the state.
The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation in 1987 to have the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the current developer, owner, and operator of the White Sox’s stadium, construct the park directly across the street from old Comiskey Park using taxpayer money.
“It’s a very tough environment now to get the kind of deal that was done back then with the arm twisting of Gov. James Thompson and House Speaker Michael Madigan who had a lot to trade back then,” Ganis said. “There isn’t the same kind of economic situation in Springfield or in Chicago. There’s a lot of money that’s tied into the Soldier Field bonds that have been refinanced multiple times from the same tax deal… There’ll likely be more private involvement this time. They’ll have to get creative.”