• Ben Szalinski
    FEB 21, 2024


    Reinsdorf visits Springfield to pitch stadium funding plan to legislative leaders

    Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf walks through the Illinois Capitol on Tuesday. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line] 

    Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf took a trip to Springfield on Tuesday to pitch lawmakers on a reported plan to devote $1 billion to help the team build a new ballpark in The 78 just south of the Loop in Chicago.  

    Crain’s reported last week that Reinsdorf will ask state lawmakers for $1 billion worth of incentives by rearranging debt to pay for the stadium. This includes using revenue from a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax to pay for stadium construction when bonds issued by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) are paid off in 2034. Reinsdorf and developer Related Midwest also seek to refinance bonds to pay for initial stadium construction. Overall, the Sox would have to convince lawmakers to allow the ISFA to provide more funding for stadium construction. 

    The payment plan could also include a tax increment financing plan to pluck tax revenue in favor of developing the site. Crain’s reported a special taxing district could bring in $400 million of the money needed for the project.  

    “We are mindful and respectful of the legislative process and wanted to travel to Springfield to meet personally with legislative leaders,” a White Sox spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re excited to share our vision, and we appreciate their time and hospitality.” 

    Reinsdorf and associates from Related Midwest, the developer behind The 78, walked through a crowd of reporters to his meetings but didn’t say much along the way. He said the meetings are “exploratory” and will have more to say at a more appropriate time 

    "I’m not in the business of predicting,” Reinsdorf said when asked how recepitve lawmakers will be to his pitch.   

    "I'm always positive about everything. I'm even positive about the White Sox winning the division this year,” he continued.  

    Gov. JB Pritzker did not meet with Reinsdorf and has not been briefed on the plan, a spokesperson told The Daily Line. Pritzker has said he’s generally opposed to public funding for private stadium developments.   

    "I want to thank Jerry Reinsdorf for coming down to discuss his vision in person,” House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) 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."  

    “It’s still early innings,” Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said in a statement.  

    Lawmakers likely aren’t warm to the idea of shelling out more money for the White Sox. The Chicago Bears already kicked the tires in Springfield last year, which was generally met with a sour attitude. The football team could be back in front of state lawmakers again at some point this year as they continue to pursue a new stadium development, though their latest interest in developing a parking lot next to Soldier Field instead of Arlington Park changes conversations.   

    Both Soldier Field and Guaranteed Rate Field are financed by ISFA debt. The Bears took out state loans in the mid-2000s to renovate Soldier Field while the ISFA funded the construction of the new Sox stadium, where they currently reside, in Bridgeport in the early 1990s.  

    One Chicago lawmaker is not interested in any incentives for the White Sox.   

    Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who represents a North Side district, said the ask is “tone-deaf,” especially as lawmakers expect to hear from Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday about how the state will address a $900 million deficit and after Reinsdorf already got state money for his current stadium.  

    “He’s not reading this room well at all,” Cassidy told The Daily Line.  

    “It doesn’t sound like there’s much appetite to help him with this, or the Bears… I don’t believe that we are sent here to make billionaires richer,” Cassidy said.   

    Reinsdorf’s net worth is $2.4 billion, according to Forbes.  

    Reinsdorf has apparently toyed with the idea of moving to Nashville and met with the city’s mayor during baseball winter meetings late last year. Despite that meeting, there’s been no other indication the team could be moving, unlike in 1988. Cassidy, a Cubs fan, said any team that asks for public funding in Springfield should get the same answer, even if they’re threatening to move out of Illinois: no.   

    The Cubs tried asking local officials for financial help with renovations for Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood about a decade ago but were denied. The renovations proceeded without public funding.   

    Reinsdorf met with all four legislative leaders, including the minority party Republicans. At a news conference earlier Tuesday before his meeting with Reinsdorf, Senate Minority Leader John Curran (R-Downers Grove) declined to give his thoughts on the White Sox’s proposal, saying he hadn’t seen it despite last week’s reports.  

    “I don’t know what the plan is, I’m not going to comment on it until I’m actually presented with it,” Curran said.  

    The White Sox and Reinsdorf have been to Springfield before. The General Assembly’s action in 1988 approving a more than $150 million subsidy by the ISFA to allow the Sox to build their new Bridgeport stadium and replace the original Comiskey Park, instead of moving to Florida, has become the subject of Springfield lore. Former Speaker Mike Madigan famously stopped the clocks at 11:59 p.m. on June, 30, 1988, though the bill approving the funding passed shortly after midnight on July 1. The General Assembly faced a midnight deadline that evening to approve the plan or lose the team to Florida.  

Be the first to comment

Or sign in with email

    Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.