The owners of U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox, are looking to broaden the use of the stadium beyond baseball games, according to Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), the company that owns the Cell.
The first step: a music festival announced yesterday by its headliner, Chicago-native Chance the Rapper, featuring artists Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne and John Legend, among others.
ISFA Executive Director Lou Bertuca, says that this is only the first of many events outside of baseball to be held at the Bridgeport ballpark.
“There’s no reason that the stadium shouldn’t be doing one major sporting event outside of baseball and one or two concerts every summer,” Bertuca said. “This is really the first shoe to drop and we can’t wait for our facility to be showcased.”
There have only been two previous concerts at U.S. Cellular Field -- Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones in the early 2000’s.
Bertuca said it’s been difficult to find performers who are willing or able to fill a 40,000-seat stadium for one night, instead of opting to fill a two-night show in a smaller venue. Bertuca said ISFA has been working for the past year with Madison House Productions to nail down a performer. When the option of Chance the Rapper came to the table, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Chance is the perfect fit because he’s from the South Side of Chicago, he’s really proud of being from Chicago and he gives a lot back,” Bertuca said. “To catch Chance the Rapper on his meteoric rise to the top is just a great opportunity.”
Chance has built a reputation as a passionate Chicagoan, South Sider and White Sox fan -- he recently designed new hats for the MLB team.
But outside of establishing themselves as a well-rounded Chicago venue, the ISFA maintains that the biggest concern is still the stadium’s main occupant.
“We also have to make sure that we keep in mind that we have a tenant -- the Chicago White Sox -- and they’re concerned and they place baseball on that field,” Bertuca said. “They want to make sure that the field’s immaculate. We’ve have to build trust to show that we will work with their grounds crew to make sure it’s executed perfectly.”
Mariah Woelfel reports for the WBEZ news desk. Follow her @MariahWoelfel.