More sports team stadium drama could be on the horizon as the Chicago White Sox are said, as of this writing, to be preparing to announce a significant private investment in a new South Loop ballpark.

The ball club has already demanded a share of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority’s bonding authority, which the Chicago Bears claimed for itself in its entirety last week for its own stadium plan (to the tune of $900 million).

The city’s women’s soccer team, the Red Stars, is also hoping for a new stadium and will likely want a piece of that ISFA bonding authority — a fact that both Governor JB Pritzker and House Speaker Chris Welch pointed to last week.

Unions are a crucial component to all this, but a high-level official with Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union said that, while his organization supports the Bears’ massive domed stadium plan, the NFL team’s desire to use up all of ISFA’s bonding authority and freeze the other teams out just isn’t realistic. “I think until there's a bigger, more global deal that comes together, I just don't think it's real,” he said of the Bears plan.

The White Sox want to capture all the state sales tax revenue from the new South Loop site, which is probably a no-go. Unlike the Bears, with their $1.5 billion capital-funding proposal, the Sox won’t be asking for any direct state cash.

The spring legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on May 24, and the Bears want a deal done by then.

But judging by the comments of state leaders last week, if these plans are going to have even a remote chance of passage, the teams will have to drastically scale back their state asks and show some tangible benefits for state tax-payers.

The governor repeatedly threw cold water on the Bears proposal last week, dismissing ideas like the Bears snagging the revenue from events at the publicly-owned stadium as “probably non-starters.”

Governor Pritzker also flat-out refused to repurpose state revenues for a stadium. Senate President Don Harmon and Speaker Welch have also expressed skepticism, with Speaker Welch doing so pretty forcefully.

Some pro-Bears types have grumbled privately that, while Pritzker seems to be enjoying bashing the Bears’ plan, he is all about using state money to help fund projects like Gotion’s electric-vehicle battery plant in Kankakee County.

Pritzker’s top spokesperson responded that the governor has “supported economic development across this state, but there has to be a benefit for the tax-payers.”

“Forty years of bond payments is not what Gotion or Rivian are getting,” she said, referring to the Bears proposal to refinance the Illinois Sports Facility Authority’s debt over forty years. That Bears plan, she noted, “is going to cost tax-payers billions of dollars, not hundreds of millions in one-time money.”

$125 million from the state’s deal-closing fund has already been released to Gotion for its plant, she said, “with claw-back provisions, obviously, if they don’t live up to their promises.”

And Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago last week that he “needed to make sure that the Bears organization and my administration were on the same page” before the stadium proposal moved to the state level.

Indeed, a big chunk of the Bears’ $1.5 billion capital-funding proposal announced last week was negotiated with the mayor’s office.

“City officials said Johnson’s office won’t ask the City Council to chip in for the infrastructure upgrades,” the Sun-Times reported.

So the mayor negotiated a $1.5 billion package funded entirely by other government entities, mainly the state, without including any other government entities in those negotiations or making sure there was enough available cash to fund the wish list (there isn’t).

The funding would come in three phases. The Bears made it clear last week that the team needs $325 million in Phase One to open the stadium’s doors, with much (not all) of the other two phases paying for various amenities, like new parkland, a skating rink, a museum, a hotel, etc. Those second and third phases were downplayed by the team.

“We would be excited if all three phases happened,” said Karen Murphy, the Bears' executive vice president of stadium development, according to the Sun-Times. “We need Phase One to happen for our project specifically.”

Bears CEO Kevin Warren also seemed to back away, telling Crain’s Chicago Business: “We can start to dispute whether the amount was too much or the infrastructure costs are too much or what is the appropriate amount of the bonds.”

That sound you hear may be some of the mayor’s negotiations being thrown out the window.


Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and Capitol

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