Local alderperson wants ‘everything’ on the table to keep Sox in Chicago — except demolishing Guaranteed Rate Field

It’s not fiscally responsible, 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee argues, to tear down a ballpark that “by today’s standards was built for a steal compared to what costs are today.”

SHARE Local alderperson wants ‘everything’ on the table to keep Sox in Chicago — except demolishing Guaranteed Rate Field
Guaranteed Rate Field

Guaranteed Rate Field, which opened in 1991 to replace Comiskey Park, was built for $137 million, a relative bargain, and it wouldn’t be responsible to tear it down, argues 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

Bridgeport Ald. Nicole Lee said Tuesday she is determined to keep the White Sox in Chicago — and in the 11th Ward — and “everything should be on the table” with one exception: demolishing Guaranteed Rate Field.

“We, as members of the City Council, need to think about when it’s … fiscally responsible to tear something down that’s perfectly fine in terms of a physical structure … which by today’s standards was built for a steal compared to what costs are today,” said Lee of the stadium that opened in April 1991 for what is now the bargain basement price of $137 million.

Calling the Sox a “huge economic engine for our community and for the city,” Lee said, “We’ve got strong emotional ties to this team. ... I certainly don’t want to see them go. I’m open to the conversation about what would be mutually beneficial for the Sox and our community. … We’re in the first inning of this. We’ve got a lot of games left to play.”

Lee said she wants to talk to Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about “what’s not lucrative” for the team. Reinsdorf is at least considering moving the team he and his investors purchased in 1981 for $19 million either to another Chicago location, surrounding suburbs or, possibly, to Nashville, Tennessee, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

“I couldn’t even confirm for you that I know with any certainty that they’re unhappy there right now. I literally haven’t had this conversation with them.

“There are … a lot of opportunities to make it a mutually beneficial situation for the White Sox, the city and our community here in the 11th Ward,” Lee said.

Short of a new stadium, possibilities to sweeten the pot for the Sox include developing the sea of parking lots around Guaranteed Rate Field, Lee said.

“Some of those parking lots are probably underutilized. If there’s anything obvious, all I see is what is the land that is right there.

“We are always looking to develop the 11th Ward in terms of our business corridors. And the Sox are a big part of that. All options are on the table. I don’t want to rule anything out,” Lee said.

“Economic development that brings more people to the community in general that feeds into this economic ecosystem of ours here in the 11th Ward, including this really big stadium that we have, we can absolutely utilize more,” she said.

Before being appointed to fill the vacancy created by the conviction of former 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, Lee recalled having “participated in some, like obstacle course race, in one of the parking lots” outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Those are really great uses when the ballpark is not open,” she said.

“I haven’t had enough conversations with the White Sox to really understand where the pain points are, where the biggest opportunities are. Nothing is off the table, in my opinion, in terms of the conversation,” she said.

Frank Bilecki, executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority that built, owns and operates Guaranteed Rate Field, did not return repeated phone calls. Nor did ISFA Board Chair Leslie Darling.

Another ISFA board member, who asked to remain anonymous, said there have been no discussions by the board about sweetening the Sox lease, which has six more years to run, or about stadium renovations. Even before the Crain’s story, there have been periodic discussions about making year-round use of stadium parking lots, the board member said.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jack Lavin was asked what he believes Mayor Brandon Johnson should do to keep the Sox in Chicago even as the Bears threaten to leave the city for the suburbs.

“There has to be discussions between the city and the team about what does the team need,” Lavin said.

“Major League teams now want an entertainment district around whatever stadium or ballpark [they call home]. ... The city and the team just need to sit down and have a conversation about how we can grow jobs in the city and grow revenue through sports teams,” he said.

Lavin was asked whether those talks should center on keeping, and possibly improving, Guaranteed Rate Field and building up the area around it, or replacing the 32-year-old stadium.

“That’s a question for the city and the business that is the White Sox. I don’t know all the needs of the White Sox from their business standpoint,” Lavin said.

The Latest
Stability was important for Cooney, whose dad is heading into his 13th season as Oswego’s head coach.
The Wienermobile and a car were both going north on the tollway when the Wienermobile struck the car, lost control and rolled over, Illinois State Police said. No injuries were reported.
She played Harris several times as a guest on “SNL” in 2019, during the 2020 presidential election cycle.
Parent company Warner Bros. Discovery informed the league Monday that it will match the $1.8 billion per year offer by Amazon Prime Video. Turner has had an NBA package since 1984 and games have been on TNT since the network launched in 1988.
Birds rely on the moon and stars to travel, and bright lights from glass structures at night throw off their navigation. The $1.2 million project began in early June and will be completed before the fall migration.