First and Last Month’s, Plus Deposit

[from The Sports Cartel / March 16, 2008]

Something to think about this week: The Chicago Tribune, who would theoretically have a good source for this information, has previously reported that Wrigley Field would have a sticker price in the neighborhood of $90 million. In addition, another $300-$400 million will be necessary for renovations, a number that could increase if the park instead gets a date with the wrecking ball.

To all you Illinois residents, that’s half a billion dollars not cleaning up your schools. RTA riders, that’s half a billion dollars not improving your public transportation experience. Highway drivers, that’s a lot of potholes not getting filled and a lot of lanes not being added. To everyone who doesn’t live near the city and doesn’t case about baseball, that’s half a billion dollars’ worth of entertainment you don’t like for people you don’t know.Old Comiskey, New Comiskey

Meanwhile, Sam Zell is personally worth an estimated $6 billion, and the Cubs are expected to sell for around $700 million to offset some of the $13.4 billion Zell sank into the Tribune acquisition. Any logical human being could safely assume the investment group/eccentric billionaire with that much to spend on a team would also have enough to cover the cost of building Wrigley II, so why on earth should it even be an option for public money to fuel such a ridiculous private enterprise that is not a universally beneficial service? To put it another way: everyone can use a hospital, but not everyone can use a ballpark.

To anyone out there ready to use the deal for Comiskey II as a precedent for why the state can (and needs to) step in, save your venom for another day. The Heartland Institute took a look at how that’s worked out, and their findings weren’t pretty, but certainly shed new light on a lot of team operations:

“At U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox lease expires in 2011. According to Christopher Lackner, spokesman for the ISFA, which owns and operates the stadium, the White Sox have paid rent nine times since 1991, but only once since 2001, when the annual attendance target was raised from 1.2 million to 1.5 million. Total rent paid depends on total attendance.”

The report also shows how the state and the city are actually losing money on the Comiskey and Soldier Field plans, and that the renovations that turned Comiskey Park II into U.S. Cellular Field were publicly-funded as well. All told, the ISFA has recouped $460 million on the hotel taxes that were supposed to make back the $649 million it sank into its two previous projects over the last 20 years. And giving them a new toy is supposed to be a good thing?