Amidst a rather dull offseason, news broke last week from the Chicago Sun-Times that jarred White Sox fans to life: Jerry Reinsdorf and the Sox are in “serious talks” to build a new stadium in South Loop. Talks centered on “The 78”, a long-undeveloped parcel covering 62 acres just over a mile south of the heart of The Loop. It would potentially house the South Siders in 2030 following the expiration of the Guaranteed Rate Field lease.
Should Sox fans be excited about such a move? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes. While the current home in Bridgeport has its perks, “The 78” is a prime location with an abundance of transit options and a lively adjacent neighborhood. It would attract Sox fans and tourists alike with perks that The Rate simply cannot offer.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the lot is its proximity to various forms of public transportation. The closest CTA station is the Roosevelt Green/Orange stop, just a couple blocks from the north edge of the lot. But also north are the Harrison Red Line, LaSalle Blue Line, and LaSalle Street Metra stations, all within a half-mile. To the east about 0.4 miles, two more Metra lines are served by the Museum Campus/11th Street stop. Finally, the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop is just a few blocks to the south. But wait, there’s more! The Chicago River on the west edge could easily provide a water taxi service to the game.
Another huge positive of the move is the possibility of building the ballpark oriented towards the beautiful Chicago skyline. Our own, highly-talented Brandon Anderson provided a glance at what that could look like:
Many have lamented that Guaranteed Rate (then U.S. Cellular) Field was oriented southeast away from the skyline without much explanation. Building a new ballpark similar to the above design would be a phenomenal chance to right that wrong. Major League Baseball recommends that stadiums face generally northeast, which would function well to fit a sizable chunk of the skyline.
Lastly, I believe the property has just enough land to accommodate some bars and restaurants in a cozy, neighborhood feel. Compared to many stadium areas with massive parking allocation, admittedly the property is on the smaller side. Here’s Guaranteed Rate overlaid on the dimensions (click to view the un-cropped picture):
Yes, the degree of parking currently on display at Guaranteed Rate Field would not be possible. The method of transport to Sox games would have to radically shift away from being car-centric. Yet I think such a change is not only completely reasonable, given that both suburban and city Sox fans have multiple train stops nearby, but ideal. Vast seas of parking isolate stadiums from nearby amenities and are rather ugly, not to mention the post-game traffic issues. Plus, there is certainly room for some parking, just nowhere near the wide spans around 35th and Shields.
Wrigley Field manages to consistently serve 35,000 people with absolutely zero parking and only one bordering train line. The White Sox, with more room to work with, can take Wrigley’s cramped situation and improve on it in a multitude of ways at “The 78”.
Such a configuration near downtown would also work wonders in bringing tourists and casual fans to watch the South Siders. While there are noted downsides to over-tourism, I would not worry. Having watched several games at different “touristy” ballparks, I can confidently say a raucous atmosphere can still be achieved—fielding a competitive team matters most in generating energy. More fans at the game means more money coming back to better the club (with the, ahem, right owner), more exciting games, and a better reputation with visiting free-agent-to-be players.
All in all, moving to “The 78” could shift the entire franchise forward in significant new ways. At the minimum, it would provide a better fan experience from start to finish. Life right now is not great for Sox fans, but a move like this provides an invigorating glimpse into a potential new era for the South Siders.
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Featured Image: NBC Chicago