Column: New Chicago White Sox ballpark in the South Loop would be no panacea for the team’s problems

A brand new Chicago White Sox ballpark within the South Loop is barely a figment of somebody’s creativeness proper now.

But at the very least the information Wednesday that the Sox are in “serious talks” to construct a downtown stadium within the space generally known as “the 78″ close to Clark Street and Roosevelt Road gave us one thing to speak about in addition to the Justin Fields-versus-Caleb Williams debate throughout a down time for our native sports activities groups.

With no SoxFest on faucet and no big-name signings to get followers excited in regards to the season, the leak of the ballpark rumor offered the Sox with front-page information on one other chilly, dreary day in January.

Nothing improper with that.

Who doesn’t need to dream of a phenomenal new ballpark with a skyline view and surrounding bars and eating places to go to earlier than and after video games? It’s what the Sox ought to’ve performed within the mid-Eighties once they held the state hostage for public funding for what was then referred to as new Comiskey Park.

Instead we acquired an unlovable construction ridiculed by followers for its steep higher deck, a moat separating the sphere from the bleachers and an absence of leisure choices wherever close to the park. The “Ball Mall” was the favored nickname after it opened in 1991.

“When people came out for that first opening day, they were in awe of the place,” Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf advised the Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein in 1999. “But now the stadium is a well-liked factor to assault. Look, I assumed folks wished unobstructed views and extensive aisles. I guessed improper.

“People wanted a more homey feeling. But I really believe that if we had built Camden Yards instead, I would have been massacred. People wanted a modern park.”

Oops.

In a uncommon mea culpa, Reinsdorf finally agreed to a sequence of renovations that included eradicating eight rows and 6,600 seats from the higher deck and a canopy-style roof to exchange the flat one over the 13 highest rows. A sports activities bar/restaurant was constructed throughout the road. The moat was crammed in with new bleacher seating. The Sox even allowed tailgating.

Once renovated, “The Cell” grew on followers, at the very least those that didn’t have to sit down within the higher deck. It wasn’t as beloved as previous Comiskey Park nevertheless it was advantageous. Still, the one time outdoors opening day that the ballpark was sometimes crammed was when the Sox had been within the midst of a successful season or taking part in the Cubs within the City Series.

Now comes one other mea culpa from Reinsdorf — an admission that what’s now referred to as Guaranteed Rate Field is out of date after solely 33 years. Reinsdorf wouldn’t say that, after all, however by making a brand new ballpark a precedence, it’s apparent he “guessed wrong” in regards to the one at thirty fifth Street and Shields Avenue.

After the Sun-Times broke the information about new stadium talks between the Sox and town, Mayor Brandon Johnson and the Sox launched a press release Thursday.

“Mayor Brandon Johnson and Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf met to discuss the historic partnership between the team and Chicago and the team’s ideas for remaining competitive in Chicago in perpetuity,” the assertion learn. “The partnership between the City and the team goes back more than a century and the Johnson administration is committed to continuing this dialogue moving forward.”

The concept the Sox will stay aggressive in Chicago “in perpetuity” suggests they’re aggressive now. Anyone following the workforce’s downward spiral for the reason that 2022 postseason, together with its uninspiring offseason this winter, is aware of that’s a joke.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Sox intend to compete within the close to future. Would a ballpark within the South Loop assist herald followers who typically have prevented going to Sox Park during the last couple of a long time?

If they construct it, will they arrive?

Only if a brand new ballpark comes with a brand new proprietor.

It goes with out saying that Reinsdorf’s reputation amongst Sox followers is decrease than the sewer system below Lower Wacker Drive. But Reinsdorf, who turns 88 in February, mentioned in September that he had no intention of promoting the Sox.

“Friends of mine have said, ‘Why don’t you sell? Why don’t you get out?’” he mentioned. “My reply at all times has been, ‘I like what I’m doing, as dangerous as it’s, and what else would I do?’

“I’m a boring guy. I don’t play golf. I don’t play bridge. And I want to make it better before I go.”

Evidence of Reinsdorf making the Sox higher is tougher to seek out than the proprietor of the gun who fired bullets that hit two followers final summer season within the Guaranteed Rate Field bleachers. The payroll goes down, and the group’s unusual infatuation with bringing in former Kansas City Royals personnel has reached a crescendo.

A brand new South Loop ballpark sounds cool, however it will not be a panacea for the Sox’s attendance issues, simply as the brand new Comiskey Park wasn’t after that new ballpark odor wore off following the primary few seasons. Traffic jams on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways received’t make it any simpler to get to, and taking the “L” at night time is way scarier now than it was prepandemic.

Even within the extremely unlikely occasion the Sox would pay a lot of the tab, what would occur to the soon-to-be white elephant in Bridgeport that Illinois taxpayers helped pay for? Will the Sox ever clarify why they should depart in any case these renovations?

At least the Sox ought to acknowledge the present ballpark, the final one constructed earlier than the “retro” parks resembling Camden Yards, was an architectural mistake.

“I talk to fans a lot, and they tell me they don’t like the ambience,” Reinsdorf advised Greenstein in 1999 throughout one other Sox rebuild. “But what people really want is something better in the uniforms.”

That assertion rings true 25 years later.

Maybe the Sox must work on that earlier than speaking a few new ballpark.

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