According to a report from Fran Spielman, Tim Novak, and David Roeder of the Sun-Times, the White Sox are involved in “serious” negotiations with developer Related Midwest about the possibility of putting a new ballpark in the South Loop. The undeveloped parcel at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street is known as “The 78” because of its potential to become Chicago’s 78th neighborhood.
For those who weren’t already aware, Wrigleyville is not one of the 77 despite the concept behind the Cubs’ City Connect jerseys. It’s pretty fun to note, however, that this project coming to fruition would mean both of the city’s big league ballparks sitting on Clark.
No one from either Related Midwest or the Sox would comment on the matter, though Jerry Reinsdorf has spoken publicly about the possibility of bouncing from Guaranteed Rate Field when the team’s lease runs out following the 2029 season. Imagine if they were to do it right this time with a park that actually captures that magnificent skyline in the outfield sightlines.
I’m one of the first to admit that the Sox have done a good job upgrading their facilities, particularly when it comes to food and beverage options, but the original planning and timing created a massive hole to dig out of. Not only does G-Rate face out toward the interstate, but it initially had a totally generic feel that stood in stark contrast to the wave of retro-inspired parks that popped up shortly thereafter.
How The 78 has remained undeveloped all this time is beyond me, though it should come as no surprise that debauchery is involved. Convicted felon Tony Rezko owned it for a time with partner Nadhmi Acuhi, a London-based Iraqi billionaire who was likewise convicted of some unsavory activity involving illegal commissions on a French oil deal. The site was among those being considered for the casino now planned for River West, but the only project currently slated to go ahead is a University of Illinois tech research center called “Discovery Partners Institute.”
Since that will only take up four of the parcel’s 62 acres, there should be room left for a ballpark and the requisite accouterments. That notion is apparently up for debate, though the pessimistic angle came from an anonymous developer who said DPI has been trying to wiggle out of the deal. Sounds like it’s more of a leverage play than a space issue, or something to that effect.
The CTA’s Roosevelt station serves the Red, Green, and Orange lines, so mass transit is a great option that will reduce the need for parking. The Chicago River provides the western border of the land and could offer the possibility of water taxis as well. It’d be pretty sweet to take an architectural tour in the morning and then ferry on down to a ballgame.
“If the White Sox are to stay in the city proper, that is an excellent location,” Chicago-based stadium consultant Marc Ganis told the Sun-Times. “It’s a clear site that has mass transit and highway access around it. It is one of the very few locations in the urban core of Chicago that could have a well-situated stadium on it.”
Ganis went on to say the new park could emulate the Braves’ Truist Park, though I’d say having it in the actual city proper and not 15 miles away makes a big difference. I would also say that there might be a more relevant and closer comparison to a mixed-use development featuring hotels, restaurants, and various other businesses. Like, I don’t know, that other ballpark in town.
Then again, Wrigley Field’s location is vastly different from what the Braves did or what the Sox may be looking to do. I really hope this isn’t just a ploy to get a better lease deal, but I hope even more that Reinsdorf isn’t looking to fund this thing entirely with public money. It’s entirely possible he’s trying to piggyback off of the Bears’ situation to get the City to pony up a bunch of cash.
Regardless of how you feel about the team itself, it would be cool as hell to have a new ballpark in that particular location.