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Rob Manfred says the White Sox stadium plan could be a ‘game changer’

The Commissioner gave an interview to Crain’s Chicago Business

Al Yellon

In an exclusive interview given to Crain’s Chicago Business, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seemed to give a big thumbs-up to the idea proposed recently regarding a new stadium for the White Sox south of downtown Chicago.

Manfred said what’s particularly solid about the proposal is the “proximity to downtown” it would bring a team that now plays several miles to the south in a neighborhood that pretty much shuts down after dark. “Baseball has always worked well close to downtown,” which offers not only other entertainment options but good transit and highway access.

“I’m supportive,” Manfred added. “A new facility could be a game changer for the White Sox.”

This is all true, but what concerns some Chicagoans would be public money going to build such a new ballpark. Manfred addressed that in a discussion he said he had with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf:

Reinsdorf has assured him it would require “no new taxes.”

That appears to be a reference to what sources close to Reinsdorf said could involve shifting revenues from an existing 2% tax on Chicago hotel rooms to the new facility. Those tax revenues now are directed to paying debt for the construction of the Sox’s current home, Guaranteed Rate Field, but all bonds will be retired by later this decade.

So, that would mean no taxes from general Chicago revenues, particularly property tax dollars. If financing were done in this way, it would simply be extending an existing tax on hotel rooms. That sort of thing is popular, or has been in the past, as the taxes are generally not paid by locals. Lastly, the Crain’s article suggests there could be some funding indirectly from Major League Baseball:

Manfred said MLB would not directly finance the stadium but provide an indirect subsidy. Under league rules, stadium development costs are automatically deducted from required team revenue-sharing payments, he said, so the Sox could effectively have some of their costs covered by the league.

That’s an interesting way of doing things, and who knows? All of this just might work. The folks at Field of Schemes will tell you — and have, and they are correct — that building new stadiums never, ever brings the number of jobs or the amount of revenue that stadium-building proponents say it will.

But if this could be done without hundreds of millions of additional dollars coming from the public trough, it ... might just work.

As always, we await developments.