White Sox Owner Meets With State Lawmakers as Team Seeks Public Funds for New Stadium

A rendering of a White Sox stadium at The 78 site with additional development. (Credit: Related Midwest)A rendering of a White Sox stadium at The 78 site with additional development. (Credit: Related Midwest)

A day before Gov. J.B. Pritzker shares his plan to close a projected budget hole tiptoeing toward $1 billion, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf traveled to Springfield to make a pitch for state help spending roughly that amount on a new Sox stadium.

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Reinsdorf and a cadre of men in suits made the legislative equivalent of running the bases, as he spent the late afternoon and early evening crisscrossing the Capitol for private meetings with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the state House and Senate.

As he went into a meeting with state Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), Reinsdorf told reporters his talks with House leadership were “cordial” and “thoughtful” but said he’s “not in the business of predicting.”

“I’m always positive about everything,” Reinsdorf said. “I’m even positive about the White Sox winning divisions.”

The 2005 World Championship Sox finished the 2023 season with 101 losses.

State leaders were even more tightlipped.

“It’s still early innings,” Harmon said in a statement.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch was slightly more loquacious.

“I want to thank Jerry Reinsdorf for coming down to discuss his vision in person,” Welch said in a statement. “There are a lot of conversations that still need to be had, but I appreciate the opportunity to discuss future goals for Chicago teams.”

The White Sox have played in Bridgeport for more than a century, but Reinsdorf and developer Related Midwest proposed building a new stadium in the South Loop as an anchor to a 62-acre site between Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River that Related Midwest has dubbed The 78.

It would be an “urban ballpark for everyone,” Related Midwest promises on its website.

To realize that field of dreams, the Sox and Related Midwest are seeking nearly $1 billion in state subsidies, according to reporting in Crain’s Chicago Business, by extending Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, or ISFA, bonds paid for by a tax on hotel rooms and by capturing some of the future sales taxes generated within The 78.

Neither the White Sox nor Related Midwest referenced specifics about the prospective financing in statements released Tuesday about their joint trip to the statehouse.

“We appreciated the time afforded to us by lawmakers in Springfield today,” Related Midwest said in a statement. “As we shared in the meetings, The 78 is a generational development and an investment in our hometown. It’s personal to us and we are excited about the prospect of delivering the city’s next great neighborhood, while making an historic economic investment that will bring over 10,000 construction jobs and 22,000 permanent jobs to our city and state.” 

The Sox said in a statement that the team is “excited to share our vision, and we appreciate their (the legislative leaders’) time and hospitality.”

“We recognize discussions about The 78 serving as the future home of the Chicago White Sox have generated a lot of excitement over the potential of the larger project’s positive economic impact,” the team’s statement reads. “We are mindful and respectful of the legislative process and wanted to travel to Springfield to meet personally with legislative leaders.”

The group didn’t fully round the bases.

According to Pritzker’s office, the governor did not meet with Reinsdorf.

During a portion of the time the Sox owner was in talks with General Assembly leaders, the governor was practicing the combination state of the state address and budget speech he’ll give at noon Wednesday.

Pritzker’s spokeswoman said the governor will evaluate a proposal if and when one is drafted by the ISFA.

The White Sox currently lease Guaranteed Rate Field from the ISFA, a state agency created in 1987 to keep the team from moving to Florida.

The agency describes its purpose as “constructing and renovating sports stadiums for professional sports teams in the State of Illinois.”

The ISFA provided $400 million of financing for the 2002 renovations to Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears. That team is also contemplating a move and is expected to seek some sort of state subsidy.

There’s talk the Sox may again be looking to go south, this time to Nashville.

According to media reports, Reinsdorf, who has been at least a partial owner of the Sox since 1981, did meet last year with Nashville’s mayor, but Reinsdorf later told reporters he “never threatened to move out” of Chicago and Guaranteed Rate Field.

“If we have six years left (on the lease), we’ve got to decide: What’s the future going to be? We’ll get to it, but I never threatened to move out,” Reinsdorf said in August, according to media reports including in the Chicago Tribune. “We haven’t even begun to have discussions with the (Illinois) Sports (Facilities) Authority, which we’ll have to do soon.”

Reinsdorf also owns the Chicago Bulls and half of the team’s home arena, the United Center.

Contact Amanda Vinicky: @AmandaVinicky | [email protected]

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