White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf meets with state lawmakers in Springfield on new stadium funding

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
White Sox chairman meets with lawmakers in Springfield on new stadium funding
Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was in Springfield Tuesday to ask state leaders to help fund a new baseball stadium in the South Loop.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The White Sox making a pitch for a new stadium.

Jerry Reinsdorf, the team's chairman traveled to Springfield Tuesday, in search of public funding for a new stadium that would move the team from Bridgeport to the South Loop.

The renderings show a 60-acre complex consisting of the stadium, open park spaces, and apartment buildings between Roosevelt Road and 18th Street.

Reinsdorf met with Democrat and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate, the so-called "Four Tops," to make his case. He was joined by a team of advisors and developers from Related Midwest, the company behind the new stadium design.

Reinsdorf met first with House Republicans, then brought his entourage into House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch's office. After, he said it had been a "very thoughtful discussion" and emphasized he remains positive, but said he didn't have anything to talk about at this stage about any funding from the state.

Welch's office released a statement on the meeting, saying, "I want to thank Jerry Reinsdorf for coming down to discuss his vision in person. There are a lot of conversations that still need to be had, but I appreciate the opportunity to discuss future goals for Chicago teams."

According to Crain's Chicago Business, Reinsdorf is preparing to ask Governor JB Pritzker and other state leaders for roughly $1 billion in public funds for construction. The financing would include bonds and TIF dollars.

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf went to Springfield to ask for a reported $1 billion in funding for a new ballpark, but not everyone was open to pitching in.

The White Sox are currently under lease at Guaranteed Rate Field through the 2029 season. Governor Pritzker has already gone on record that he is leery of using taxpayer money for professional sports teams.

Lawmakers that we spoke to were also skeptical of the appetite of lawmakers to help.

"Honestly, I'm gobsmacked that he actually has the gall to come here and ask for money at a time when we are struggling on a million different levels when our revenue shortfall is projected to be about what he's asking for," said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).

"White Sox are here, my guess is that the Bears are coming. So we're talking about a lot of money going some direction. So right now, I say there's not much of an appetite," said State Rep. Will Davis (D-Southwest Suburbs).

"I have not seen any plan, nothing proposals been put before before me. I got a meeting later today. I'll probably hear some details at that point," said State Senate Republican Leader John Curran. "It's hard to comment on something that I don't know what it is."

Fans also seemed equally reluctant to pony up for a new ballpark.

"We pay enough, what's wrong with the park they got?" Angie O'Brien, who lives near Guaranteed Rate Field, said. "Let them stay where they are at then, right?"

The renderings show a 60-acre complex consisting of the stadium, open park spaces, and apartment buildings between Roosevelt Road and 18th Street.

Crain's claims Reinsdorf and his business partner are confident they can win state support by arguing the stadium subsidies will bring along billions more in private investments.

Allen Sanderson is not just a professor in economics at the University of Chicago and teaches a course and does research on the economics of sports, he's a proud Sox fan and South Sider. He believes this would not be a good investment for Chicagoans.

"In general, sports facilities are not very good public investments for a variety of reasons," Sanderson said. "In part you just don't play many games...they really haven't done anything in the South Side for 50 years of what I would say is economic development. I just don't see anything that suggestions things are going to be different."

Related Midwest, the developers of the property where the stadium would be built as part of a larger scale development, was in Springfield a few weeks ago to make their own pitch on the plan.

But like a deep fly ball this request by Chairman Reinsdorf could be a long shot and funding is still very much up in the air, especially given that the governor is expected to ask lawmakers to come up with $182 million to help migrants in his State of the State address Wednesday.

The White Sox organization released a statement saying, "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. We are mindful and respectful of the legislative process and wanted to travel to Springfield to meet personally with legislative leaders. We're excited to share our vision, and we appreciate their time and hospitality."

A spokesperson for Related Midwest also released a statement, saying, "We appreciated the time afforded to us by lawmakers in Springfield today. 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 long-term impact will be transformative - creating a new riverfront neighborhood anchored by a state-of-the-art ballpark for generations of fans to enjoy and help enhance Chicago's place as a top destination."