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Are White Sox About to Get Rent Increase?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Oct 26, 2011 3:15PM

Photo by Joshua Mellin
Those of us who don't own our homes know that rents are increasing across the city. With Illinois in serious financial straits, the state is looking at asking their tenants to pay more.

One place they're apparently contemplating a rent increase is U.S. Cellular Field. Owned by the state via the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the White Sox pay rent for the privilege of calling "The Cell" home. Former State Senate President Emil Jones told Crain's Chicago Business this week that the team may need to pay more.

Currently, the ChiSox pay a seemingly modest $1.5 million annually to the ISFA, which works out to about $18,000 per game or $0.75 per fan who passed through the turnstiles this season. Jones noted that the White Sox payments are the lowest for any team renting a publicly owned and financed stadium. Built for the team after they threatened to leave for St. Petersburg, the White Sox began playing at what was then Comiskey Park in 1991. Naming rights were sold in 2003 and the funds were subsequently used to upgrade the park.

Thus far, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf hasn't commented on the prospect of a rent increase. Clearly, he has been trying to scale back the club's expenses by letting Ozzie Guillen walk and replacing him with unproven manager Robin Ventura. Hot stove rumors also suggest some higher paid veterans like free agent Mark Buehrle might be replaced with lower cost, younger players. Are some of these moves in anticipation of having to write bigger checks to their landlord? Or is the team's checkbook a little light even before this possible rent increase? Ont the other hand, the team is also opening additional revenue-generation operations like Bacardi at the Park restaurant and a new team store on the state-owned property.

We think raising the Sox's rent is preferable to other means of increasing revenue or cutting funds for education and the like. Although ultimately the extra expense will probably just be passed on to the fans in the form of yet another ticket price increase.