SBD/October 27, 2011/Facilities

Illinois Sports Facilities Authority Paid For U.S. Cellular Field Restaurant

Sox exempt from owing money after ISFA spent $3.2M to build Bacardi at the Park
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority "paid $3.2 million for construction of" U.S. Cellular Field's Bacardi at the Park restaurant "plus just about everything inside the place," according to a front-page piece by Jared Hopkins of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Another $3.7M from the agency "went for infrastructure upgrades for water and sewers at the Gate 5 plaza that made the restaurant possible." A '10 agreement between the White Sox and the ISFA shows that "at the project's completion, the team was exempt from owing the agency any money." That arrangement "contrasts with the management agreement for operating the stadium, which stipulates the team pay rent and make payments based on attendance." The ISFA "agreed with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf that the agency should not share in any restaurant profits." The restaurant is "closed for the season, but plans are for it to eventually operate year round." Fans with tickets can enter the restaurant "through a concourse; it also is accessible to anyone who wants to walk through the front door." Former Gov. and ISFA Chair Jim Thompson said that he "views the restaurant as just another type of concession, from which the Sox receive all the revenue inside" U.S. Cellular Field. Construction for the restaurant was "initially covered by the Sox, who were reimbursed by the agency." Hopkins notes the restaurant "appears to be unusual for a major league baseball stadium." Some full-service restaurants "accessible without a ticket to the game have opened in recent years without having to tap into public coffers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/27). Thompson "acknowledged that there are no plans for any future development on 35th Street." And if there were, Reinsdorf "would have to give thumbs-up before they could go forward" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 10/26).
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