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Jerry Reinsdorf's South Side Groundhog's Day

As most of Major League Baseball is getting primed for a new season with top-tier acquisitions and hopes for a run at the World Series, Jerry Reinsdorf is scheming to get his Chicago White Sox a new ballpark.  His tone-deaf, penny-pinching ownership style appears to have prepared him for this latest (and yet oh, so old) venture. There are multiple ways Reinsdorf can get his way, and as a stadium fanatic, I would love nothing more than to have a new site to see. I'm salivating at the chance to see the A's three times over the next decade, whether in Salt Lake City, Sacramento or in their brand-new home in Las Vegas. Yet, something just doesn't sit right with Reinsdorf and the Sox looking for a new venue. Maybe it's because he extorted money from Illinois taxpayers nearly three decades ago or pitted two cities against each other for the right to host his team.

Baseball stadiums have an interesting track record in our country.  They are either great monuments, cathedrals to the sport that last over 100 years, or slabs of concrete that last a few decades before murmurs of being replaced become the loud roars of construction equipment. The city of Chicago is well-versed in both sides of that last statement. Wrigley Field, home of the city's favorite club, the Cubs, has withstood the test of time and, with several renovations and investments, remains securely tucked away on the city's North Side. On the other hand, the White Sox tore down the decaying and decrepit Comiskey Park in the hopes of building a state-of-the-art marvel. What replaced the original Comiskey Park can only be labeled heresy by baseball purists. Recently, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that talks had begun between the White Sox organization and newly elected Mayor Brandon Johnson.  While these talks establish an early foundation to get something in the way of renovations or a new park done, it should be known that it was advertised as a discussion between the two on the franchise's history and continued success within Chicago.  

 (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (SetNumber: X39940 TK2 R3 F31)
The original Comiskey Park next to Comiskey II under construction

A Threat to Move: 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the White Sox have apparently threatened to move out of Chicago.  Leaving the annual Winter Meetings, reports surfaced that Jerry Reinsdorf and the mayor of Nashville had met and discussed the possibility of relocating the Sox.  The city of Nashville is currently seeking an expansion club with MLB and is considered one of the main frontrunners along with Salt Lake City.

Reinsdorf has owned the White Sox for 40-plus years at this point, and he has clearly gone back to the well in an effort to get others to foot the bill for his team. In 1988, the White Sox leveraged a 30 million dollar deal with the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, against Illinois lawmakers to get a new ballpark across from the original Comiskey Park, which had seen better days.  Of course, ten years later, Major League Baseball would award the Tampa Bay area with their own expansion club, the Devil Rays.  

An Era of Renovations:

There is a strong possibility that the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois will approve funding for a series of renovations to the now over 30-year-old Guaranteed Rate Field.  Originally called Comiskey II was built in 1991, caught in that awkward time as cookie-cutter stadiums were falling out of favor, but just before the ultra trendy “retro-classic” ballparks found their way into America’s heart. As such, the first edition of this stadium faced a series of missteps that rendered the park an eyesore.  Many fans complained that the stadium’s upper deck was simply too high and the steps were graded too steeply, truly the nosebleeds.  All in all, this ballpark's original concept and implementation lacked any sort of character or inspiration.  Even the stadium faced the wrong direction, away from downtown.  Eventually, good ol’ Jerry would conduct a fire sale of epic proportions, and finally, the talent level on the field matched the horrid lifelessness of the field they played on.  

Starting in 2001 and ending in 2007, a series of seven separate renovations updated the outside facade while upgrading many features of the interior.  These renovations coincided with one of the most incredible, if not improbable, World Series runs in the recent history of the sport.  Then again, from 2008 through 2021, a new series of minor upgrades solidified the now-named Guaranteed Rate Field’s status as one of the gems (at least in my opinion) of Major League Baseball. 

Now, you may be asking, what does this have to do with Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox, and their plot for a new ballpark?  The twenty years of renovations, along with the overhaul of Soldier Field, have cost the taxpayers of Illinois an estimated 207 million dollars.  Maybe, just maybe, Reinsdorf is using the leverage of his threats to leave along with the Bears' continued and ultimately bewildering search for a new stadium to his advantage for further upgrades to the park on the South Side.  

Image via: (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Comiskey II view from the nosebleeds.

A New Ballpark:

Within 36 hours of that initial conversation between Brandon Johnson and Jerry Reinsdorf, renderings and ideas surfaced around a new location less than five miles away from Guaranteed Rate Field.  The 78, aptly named as Chicago’s newest neighborhood, might be the prime location for a new stadium for the Southsiders.  The Rivers Casino group put in a bid to build a new casino on the same plot of land (it should be worth noting that the Rivers group is also closely related to the Chicago Bears and their Arlington Heights plot of land for all you conspiracy theorists).  Those original renders have recently been deleted for what I’m assuming is some sort of copyright issue, although ironically, those same images also have home plate facing away from the downtown skyline.  Perhaps a sarcastic nod to Comiskey II’s design.  

A Fourth Option: 

I’ll preface this as pure speculation on my part, as no evidence even hints at this as a possibility.  As mentioned before, the Chicago Bears are posturing, preparing to leave Soldier Field. Could it be possible for the city to offer up a renovation package so that the oldest stadium in the NFL becomes the newest stadium for the White Sox?   Obviously, that would be a tall order as Soldier Field was never designed for baseball, and its most recent redesign solidified it as a football-only venue, save for a few concerts every year.  Former Chicago Mayor Lightfoot came out with an audacious plan of her own to revitalize Soldier Field with a retractable roof, amongst a slew of other upgrades, so I suppose anything is possible. 


Main Image Via: (Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)
Guaranteed Rate Field

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