Are the Chicago White Sox Moving to the South Loop?


Does the Chicago White Sox brass read the Corner Side Yard? Don’t know if they do, but they sure seem to be familiar with my work.

It was reported in Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times that the White Sox are in “serious” negotiations to construct a new stadium in the city’s South Loop. The Sox lease Guaranteed Rate Field from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, a special district created by statute by the State of Illinois in 1988 with the sole purpose of building the stadium the Sox call home. The stadium, originally called New Comiskey Park, opened in 1991. The team’s lease expires at the end of the 2029 season – which means that any conversations needed to determine the Sox’ future in 2030 and beyond need to begin now.

The site under consideration is a 62-acre site immediately south of the Loop that’s known as The 78 – the name bestowed on it by the developer Related Midwest to demonstrate its ability to become Chicago’s 78th community area. The developers received a commitment from the University of Illinois to construct a $1.2 billion research center named Discovery Partners Institute, but no construction has occurred on the site since the Chicago City Council approved a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with Related Midwest in 2019.

First, a little bit of background that connects this news with what I write about – cities. I’ve written extensively about the historically unique relationship that baseball parks have with cities since the advent of Major League Baseball in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As baseball grew and spread across the nation, ballparks emerged as neighborhood anchors in cities, in the same way that churches, hospitals, universities, museums and other large institutions interacted with their surroundings. Today, the Boston Red Sox’ Fenway Park and the Chicago Cubs on the city’s North Side represent the best remaining examples of ballpark/neighborhood integration.

I’ve also noted for years that the White Sox, Chicago’s South Side team, could have played an integral role in the revitalization of the South Side with careful planning and good fortune, just like the Cubs did on the North Side. But when the old Comiskey Park was demolished and the current Guaranteed Rate Field was built, there was a supremely missed opportunity to dramatically alter the perception of the team and the broader South Side. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I’ve also looked at the South Loop site the Sox are considering for at least 15 years. I always thought it made perfect sense for the Sox to relocate there. I’ve viewed it as a way to transform a franchise and a city.

Today, parts of the South Side are making a comeback of their own without White Sox influence. The south lakefront is witnessing the same transformation today that was seen in north lakefront neighborhoods 30-40 years ago. New anchors like the Obama Presidential Center are under construction. All is not well for the entire South Side, but it’s seeing substantial changes.

As for the White Sox? Whatever boost they gained from a new stadium in the ‘90s, and a World Series championship in 2005, has evaporated.

The Sox’ 35th and Shields location has been hurt by site constraints for more than a century. The original ballpark was hemmed in by an above-grade freight line to the west and a below-grade expressway with a rapid transit line to the east; the new ballpark has the same constraints. The ballpark is surrounded by acres of parking lots. No development in the area immediately surrounding the stadium – restaurants, bars, memorabilia shops, for example – means the Sox are as physically disconnected from the neighborhood as they’ve always been.

Read the rest of this piece at Corner Side Yard Blog.

Pete Saunders is a writer and researcher whose work focuses on urbanism and public policy. Pete has been the editor/publisher of the Corner Side Yard, an urbanist blog, since 2012. Pete is also an urban affairs contributor to Forbes Magazine's online platform. Pete's writings have been published widely in traditional and internet media outlets, including the feature article in the December 2018 issue of Planning Magazine. Pete has more than twenty years' experience in planning, economic development, and community development, with stops in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He lives in Chicago.

Photo: Rendering of a Chicago White Sox ballpark at the proposed South Loop location at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River. Source: