Bears Stadium

White Sox not included in Bears' financing plans for new stadium. Here's why that matters

Remember, Illinois Senators requested the two teams create a joint public funding plan for their respective stadiums

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When Jerry Reinsdorf traveled to Springfield to propose a public funding plan for a White Sox stadium at "The 78" in the South Loop, he was met with an alternative suggestion from state legislators.

Lawmakers directed both the White Sox and Bears to present their requests for public dollars together, as one unified proposal. But during Wednesday's press conference announcing the Bears' plans for a new stadium on Chicago's lakefront, they failed to mention any inclusion of the White Sox in their financial plan.

"No, it [the plan] doesn't include any money for what they [White Sox] want," Bears CEO/President Kevin Warren said on Wednesday. "But it doesn't mean that money does not exist for what they want. So that's why we're continuing conversations."

In early April, the city of Chicago rejected part of a financial proposal from the Bears and White Sox for their respective stadium.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, the city rejected usage of the city's amusement tax from ticket sales at their respective stadiums to help the debt of the ISFA (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority) bonds attached to both Guaranteed Rate Field and the 2003 Soldier Field renovations.

Usually, the leftover debt from the ISFA bonds --- which isn't covered by Illinois' 2% hotel tax --- is doled out to municipalities in tax money. The idea was to construct a separate line of revenue from the city's 9% amusement tax to help cover the shortcomings of the hotel tax. But it's since been rejected.

Separately, the Bears and White Sox each have their financial plans laid out for their respective stadiums.

The Bears hope to construct a domed stadium on Chicago's lakefront with some public dollars. They project their full stadium project will cost $4.7 billion. The team said it would contribute just over $2 billion, ask for $300 million from the NFL, and look to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for $900 million. That leaves a gap of about $1.5 billion, and the team would look for public money to make up the difference.

As for the White Sox (according to multiple reports), they are aiming to build a new stadium at "The 78," which is a plot of open land in the South Loop of Chicago's downtown area. They're hoping for public funding to assist their $1.25 billion stadium, too, using a collection of hotel taxes, sales taxes from the hypothetical stadium and private investments to help issue new bonds and create new lines of revenue for said bonds and the stadium.

Recently, Crain's reported Reinsdorf has mentioned a figure of $200 million of his investment to the pool of stadium money, too.

Still, that doesn't satiate the lawmakers' request to combine a public financing plan between both teams. Warren is an advocate of constructing both stadiums, even though the Bears and White Sox don't have a joint plan.

"I've made it very clear publicly, privately, and I'll make it clear now: I think it would be an absolutely incredible day in Chicago if we were able to build two stadiums at the same time," Warren said. "One, the economic benefit, the increased tax base, the number of jobs, and also the staging of workers so we can have people working on two different jobs.

"And as I said in my opening remarks, we've got to decide who we want to be as a city. But we have an opportunity to build two world-class stadiums. We'd be all for it. We stayed in close communication with them. I don't know the specifics of their plan. But I look forward to the day that we can continually stay in close communication and I would be absolutely ecstatic if both of us were able to build our stadiums here at the same time."

How do lawmakers respond?

Shortly after the Bears' stadium presentation, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon responded with his thoughts.

"At first glance, more than $2 billion in private funding is better than zero and a more credible opening offer," Harmon said in a statement. “But there’s an obvious, substantial gap remaining, and I echo the governor’s skepticism."

As Harmon alluded to, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he remained “skeptical” about the Bears' proposal to build a new publicly-owned stadium in Chicago, before the presentation began.

“I wonder if it’s a good deal for the taxpayers,” Pritzker said. “It’s very important to me that, with all the state needs to accomplish, that we think about what the priorities are for the state… there are a lot of priorities the state has and I’m not sure that this is among the highest priorities for taxpayers.”

It might come down to a battle between the Bears and White Sox for their respective public funding needs. In that case, Economist/Davidson College professor Fred Smith told NBC Sports Chicago back in March the Bears would be the likely favorable choice.

"I think it will make sense for them to work together because there is the danger that they 'won't get picked' if they try to go in alone. Admittedly, that risk is lower for the Bears, but it is still there," Smith said in a text conversation with NBC Sports Chicago.

Why would the Bears get the better look?

The name of the game in stadium economics is outside dollars, Smith said. The ability to draw dollars from outside the city and state is how the local economy would benefit from a stadium project. In the Bears' case, that's more feasible, given they plan to have a large capacity stadium with year-round access via their translucent dome, able to host several outside events not including Bears games.

For the White Sox, that's a hill they might not be able to climb.

“If you look at the proposal from the White Sox, it looks like a gorgeous ballpark and there’s retail and commercial development around it, maybe some hotels," Smith told NBC Sports Chicago. "That’s definitely going to increase the economic vibrancy around that neighborhood.

"But at the end of the day, all that’s doing is changing where people are spending their dollars. If people are spending their dollars in that neighborhood, then maybe they’re not spending their dollars in Logan Square, or maybe they’re not spending their dollars in Wrigleyville."

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