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New White Sox park would bring riverfront-friendly design and big economic impact, developer says

A new White Sox stadium near downtown would make the most of views of the Chicago River and the Willis Tower, bringing explosive growth to the South Loop, prospective developers said Wednesday.

Drawings from Related Midwest show a new stadium with walls of windows looking onto the South Branch of the Chicago River, while spectators inside gaze onto the skyline, with new high-rises just outside the park.

The development would generate a $9 billion investment, $4 billion in annual stabilized economic impact, and $200 million in annual tax revenue, according to the developer’s projections, which were not publicly substantiated. Those projections include buildout of Discovery Partners Institute, a state proposal for a technology and research center.

The plans also include a housing complex and a soccer stadium in and around the site of the Sox’s current stadium, Guaranteed Rate Field.

The proposal so far is speculative, with no way identified to pay for the new park. Public financing would require action by lawmakers. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has expressed his general opposition to taxpayers funding private development, beyond typical infrastructure costs.

When the proposal first became public in January, the Sox and Mayor Brandon Johnson issued a joint statement, but did not mention a new stadium or site.

“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 statement reads. “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.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson later said that the proposal looked the way a new park should, with unspecified community benefit.

The new plans call for 5 million annual visitors — about triple what the Sox drew in attendance last year — plus 1,000 affordable residential units, and 1,300 new housing units at the current Sox home near Bridgeport, redeveloped in the drawings to a smaller size with a soccer field.

Related Midwest owns the 62-acre site of the proposed park near Clark Street and Roosevelt Road. The prime land — called The 78 as a hypothetical 78th city neighborhood — is vacant, sandwiched between the Metra Rock Island rail line and the river, and once was proposed as a site for a new casino.

“The development would be a catalyst for the creation of Chicago’s next great neighborhood, create tens of thousands of permanent and construction jobs and bring a state-of-the-art White Sox ballpark to the South Loop riverfront,” Related Midwest wrote to the Tribune.

Though Related Midwest doesn’t own the land near the current Sox park at Guaranteed Rate Field in Armour Square, company officials developed plans for the surrounding area to suggest what could go there, while acknowledging it would require “a robust community process” to determine the best use of the land.

The proposal is complicated by the Chicago Bears also looking to build a new stadium, potentially on the lakefront near its current home in Soldier Field, or in northwest suburban Arlington Heights.

Both Soldier Field and Guaranteed Rate Field, just three miles from the proposed new site, were built or renovated through borrowing that is still being paid off with taxpayer funds.

The renderings of the new park include a river walk alongside the park, huge video screens, a center field picnic lawn, and exploding pinwheels, similar to the current scoreboard.