Gov. Pritzker ‘reluctant’ to ask taxpayers to subsidize new White Sox stadium in South Loop

The Democratic governor also said a new $1.2 billion South Loop stadium isn’t high on his priority list.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said a new $1.2 billion White Sox ballpark in the South Loop isn’t high on his priority list.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said a new $1.2 billion White Sox ballpark in the South Loop isn’t high on his priority list. Anthony Vazquez / Chicago Sun-Times
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said a new $1.2 billion White Sox ballpark in the South Loop isn’t high on his priority list.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said a new $1.2 billion White Sox ballpark in the South Loop isn’t high on his priority list. Anthony Vazquez / Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. Pritzker ‘reluctant’ to ask taxpayers to subsidize new White Sox stadium in South Loop

The Democratic governor also said a new $1.2 billion South Loop stadium isn’t high on his priority list.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday said he is “reluctant” to provide public subsidies for a new $1.2 billion White Sox ballpark in the South Loop unless he’s assured taxpayers will see a long-term benefit.

The Democratic governor also said the new stadium isn’t high on his priority list. His comments came days after Mayor Brandon Johnson appeared to be receptive to a new stadium — saying “everything is on the table here.”

“I start out really reluctant … unless a case is made that the investment yields a long-term return for the taxpayers that we can justify in some way,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference. “I haven’t seen that yet.”

Publicly, and repeatedly, Pritzker has avowed his distaste for public subsidies for stadiums, for both the Bears and the White Sox. But he and his team have yet to meet with proposed developers Related Midwest, or Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf met with legislative leaders in separate Illinois State Capitol meetings last week.

The Sox and Related Midwest want to draw on several funding sources that back bonds issued by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to begin development on a vacant 62-acre site parcel at Roosevelt and Clark, known as “the 78.” That includes a tax increment financing district to bankroll infrastructure improvements needed to ready the site; the 2% hotel tax increase used to renovate Soldier Field; and a new sales tax overlay district that would require the city and state to forgo sales tax revenue generated within the boundaries of the project.

But Pritzker said he has not been directly asked for the reported $1 billion in public money that Reinsdorf is seeking, at least not yet.

“The information that we’ve gotten so far is still very limited,” Pritzker said. “How the taxpayer is going to benefit from this still hasn’t been put forward to us. It’s just what the need is. And of course, I think the pictures that we’ve all seen, the drawings anyway in the newspaper, all look terrific. But again, that’s not enough to make a priority, in my view for Springfield.”

Pritzker took it a step further and compared the needs of a new stadium to that of a birthing center, saying “taxpayers’ dollars are precious.” The governor visited the center to highlight his budget’s prioritization of maternal health care needs. Pritzker last week unveiled a $52.7 billion budget that included $181.7 million to continue to care for newly arriving migrants and $23 million for maternal health care, among other priorities.

“The idea of taking taxpayer dollars and subsidizing the building of a stadium as opposed to, for example, subsidizing the building of a birthing center, just to give the example, does not seem like the stadium ought to have higher priority,” Pritzker said.

Last week Johnson appeared to open a door to the new stadium, saying “everything is on the table here.” But the mayor said both the developers and the White Sox know “they have to put some skin in the game.”

“As far as public dollars, we haven’t gotten into any of those specifics just yet,” Johnson said after last week’s City Council meeting. “But I will say that we’re going to explore all options. But we have to make sure that we’re doing right by the people of Chicago. … Everything is on the table here. But again, I want to make sure there is a real commitment to public use and public benefit.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman