Sox-Bears told to join forces on stadia build



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White Sox and Bears in talks about financial partnership Image: Gensler and Related Midwest

Recently, a report stated that the Illinois (US) State legislators have told the Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Chicago White Sox and the National Football League (NFL) team Chicago Bears that if they each want a new stadium in Chicago City, they’ll need to team up to make it happen.

‘wgntv.com’ stated that well, a developer is apparently working on that.

The Chicago White Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago (US). The White Sox compete in the Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League Central Division. The team is owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, and plays its home games at the Guaranteed Rate Field, located on Chicago’s South Side.

Jim Willits, VP of Sales & Service, Chicago White Sox, US, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

The 40,615-capacity Guaranteed Rate Field, formerly the Comiskey Park and U.S. Cellular Field, is a baseball stadium located on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It serves as the home field of the Chicago White Sox.

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago (US). The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference North Division. The Soldier Field serves as their residence.

The 61,500-capacity Soldier Field is a multipurpose stadium on the Near South Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is the home of the NFL team Chicago Bears.

‘wgntv.com’ further stated that another report revealed that the developer who’s been working with the White Sox to build a new ballpark in the South Loop on a 62-acre parcel of land called ‘The 78’ says he’s trying to create a “financing partnership” with the Bears that could open the door for Chicago to build two stadiums at once.

‘The 78’ is a 62-acre mixed-use development in Chicago’s Near South Side. It’s located on the South Branch of the Chicago River, along Roosevelt Road, Clark Street, 15th Street, and the river. ‘The 78’ is a transit-oriented development that includes new homes, commercial enterprises, cultural events, academia, and outdoor recreational space.

Curt Bailey, President of Related Midwest – the developer that oversees ‘The 78’, where the proposed White Sox stadium would be built – pitched his plan for a large public subsidy that would be required to jumpstart development on the long-vacant land at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street in the South Loop (a neighborhood in Chicago).

He also said that the Related Midwest is “working with (the Bears) … to have a financing partnership that makes sense for us and for them, and for the City and the State. Wouldn’t it be unbelievable for our City if you were to see two amazing facilities for these great sports teams built at once?”

The Related Midwest is a Chicago (US)-based developer that builds mixed-use properties, affordable housing and luxury homes.
 

Here’s a look at where things stand:

 

White Sox Plans

In January it was reported that the White Sox and the City of Chicago were in “serious discussions” to build a new ballpark at ‘The 78’. The team’s lease at the Guaranteed Rate Field, the ballpark in Bridgeport on the City’s South Side that the White Sox have played in since 1991, expires after the 2029 season.

But while the plan to build a sparkling new ballpark with surrounding amenities at a prime South Loop location sounds great, there are many financial obstacles to be cleared.

A Crain’s (American media company) report last month said the White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is pursuing around $1 billion in funding from the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, and he’s confident he’ll get it.

Whether the State and the City officials feel that way, however, is another matter?

The Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is reportedly not keen on using public funding for stadium ventures. Reinsdorf and White Sox executives reportedly met with the State legislators last month to pitch their new ballpark plan, and it is reported that the Mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, hasn’t ruled out public funding for the project.
 

Developer’s Plan

Bailey’s financing plan for a new White Sox stadium at ‘The 78’ has three major parts:

  • A “35- to 40-year extension” of bonds issued by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, backed by the same two percent hotel tax increase that was previously used to finance the renovation of the Soldier Field;
  • A “sales tax overlay district” that would require the City, the State and the county to forfeit a part of the sales tax revenue generated within the project’s boundaries. Bailey says this revenue would “primarily serve as back-up”; and
  • Creating a tax increment financing district to generate a $450 million subsidy that would bankroll the infrastructure improvements needed to develop ‘The 78’. Bailey says this cuts the price that Reinsdorf placed on that work in half.

 
The Phase One of the project would include a new stadium to seat 35,000 to 38,000 people, two apartment buildings, a hotel and office building, and dozens of bars and restaurants along an extended Chicago Riverwalk that would run from the Lake Street to the ‘The 78’.

Chicago (US)-based the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) is a non-profit organization that builds and renovates the sports stadiums for the professional sports teams in Illinois. The ISFA was established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1987.
 

Bears Plans

Meanwhile, the Bears have been working on their own plans to build a new football stadium to move into from the Soldier Field.

Various locations have been pitched, but a major plan to build a new stadium in the Northwest suburbs appears to have hit a big stumbling block over property taxes.

In February 2023, the Bears purchased the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights, the former site of the 35,000-capacity Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Illinois, which has since closed down, for $197.2 million.

However, the Bears’ valuation of the property is about $100 million lower than the valuation placed on it by the Cook County Assessor’s Office (responsible for setting fair and accurate values for 1.8 million parcels of Cook County [Illinois] property). While the Cook County Board of Review (county Government office) proposed cutting the property’s valuation, it ruled to keep the property’s tax rate unchanged.

With a tax burden on the Arlington Park property higher than the team had hoped for, the Bears President and head honcho Kevin Warren has said the franchise has shifted its stance from the Arlington Park (once a horse race track) being the sole focus for a new stadium to looking at a few options.

That includes keeping the team in the City of Chicago, downtown or along the lakefront, rather than moving it out to the suburbs.

While Bailey admits he isn’t as familiar with the Bears’ new stadium plans, he said he’s talked to the NFL franchise about his proposed plan to get both stadiums built at one.

The plan to develop ‘The 78’ for a new White Sox stadium calls for all $589.1 million in funding to be paid off by new bonds.

Bailey said, “We’re not done with what the financing will look like” and “the numbers are a bit fungible right now”.

He did state, however, that “there are no plans to raise the hotel tax” to bankroll new stadiums for either the White Sox or the Bears.

A report stated that a Bears spokesman refused to comment on a possible financing partnership with the White Sox and the Related Midwest.

But Bailey’s overtures attempt to address the legislators’ demands for the White Sox and the Bears to work together on their stadium projects, and he says any financing plans for one or both stadiums would be well worth what the public would be asked to chip in.

Added Bailey on plans for ‘The 78’, “You’re talking about the largest private investment in history in the City of Chicago … What you are getting for this public investment is a massive, massive return.”

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