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Report: Reinsdorf to seek $1B in state money for new Chicago White Sox ballpark

We have the opening bid for public funding of a new Chicago White Sox ballpark, as team owner Jerry Reinsdorf will reportedly ask the state of Illinois for $1 billion in hotel taxes and TIF proceeds to build the new facility.

We reported here on the development plan for the new ballpark and associated development at The 78 South Loop development near Clark Street and Roosevelt Road. These plans were leaked without any details about potential funding.

But now we have potential details, according to Crain’s Chicago Business: Reinsdorf will seeking part of the local 2 percent hotel tax used originally in 2003 for Soldier Field renovations, extended to pay for the new ballpark. No general funds would be used, and existing Soldier Field debt would be paid off by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Using hotel/motel taxes to fund sports facilities has a long history in the sports-facility world across the country: because the overwhelming amount is paid by out of towners, the impact on local taxpayers is minimal. Also part of the mix: a TIF district–also known as tax-overlay districts in Illinois–would divert sales-tax revenue generated by the development, up to $400 million. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority would then issue bonds to back the ballpark construction. Again, TIF districts are a popular tool for financing sports facilities: the rationale is that the increased tax payment wouldn’t exist without the sports facilities. Still, these are nuances pretty much ignored in the “anger creates engagement” world of Baseball Twitter.

This puts Gov. J.B. Pritzker in a rough position: he’s already warned against using state money for a new Chicago White Sox ballpark, but the extension of an existing hotel tax and usage of TIF proceeds would mean no taxes were raised for the project, nor was there the use of any general funds for the project.

These are preliminary details, to be sure, and Chicago politicos want to see more details before committing to or opposing. Additional oney must be allocated for infrastructure improvements, and the specifics of a TIF district enacted in 2019 at the project site. So we’re a long ways from a final financing plan.

RELATED STORIES: Plans for new Chicago White Sox ballpark unveiled

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