City’s pro sports teams slam Emanuel’s tax hike for large concerts

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Members of the Chicago Blackhawks salute the United Center crowd after a win in February. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The United Center and its two biggest tenants — the Blackhawks and Bulls — decried Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to jack up the city’s amusement tax on large concerts while eliminating it for smaller venues.

The Bears and White Sox joined in the chorus as well, as the teams posted nearly identical statements on their respective websites denouncing the plan on Tuesday.

“Chicago stands alone for many reasons that we can be proud of — but having the highest amusement taxes for fans attending sports and concerts in the United States should not be one of them,” the statement read. “By driving this tax to one of the highest in the country, Chicago will lose concerts. As the shows leave, so do the dollars that flow through restaurants, cabs and hotels on any given show night. And despite what our political leaders believe, the losses will far surpass any gains a tax increase was intended to garner.”

The Cubs chimed in against the tax as well.

“World class entertainers like Billy Joel and Lady Gaga who perform at Wrigley Field have their choice of venues and the new proposal puts Chicago venues at a disadvantage compared to locations outside the city which can attract talent with lesser taxes,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said in an email. “When these artists choose to go elsewhere, Chicago loses.”

The city currently tacks on a 5 percent tax per ticket for concerts at venues with a capacity larger than 750 people. The mayor’s office announced last week the plan to eliminate the 5 percent tax, and charge a 9 percent tax on tickets at venues with a capacity over 1,500 people — a boon for small- to mid-size concert halls, but a drag for the city’s largest stages.

Though the plan doesn’t affect ticket prices for sporting events, which are already stuck with a 9 percent tax, plus Cook County’s 3 percent amusement tax, the teams host some of the city’s largest concerts at their stadiums.

The Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks are the highest payers of the current city amusement tax, along with movie theaters and cable TV providers. Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins said the proposal “creates parity.”

“Under the current law, a game held at one of the stadiums on a Monday is taxed at 9 percent, while a concert held at the same stadium on a Tuesday is taxed at 5 percent,” Collins said. “That doesn’t really make sense, and this proposal would ensure that ticketed events at the stadiums are all taxed at the exact same rate.”

The city figures to net $15.8 million in revenue from the adjustment, according to the mayor’s office.

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