Taxpayers in the Land of Lincoln are outraged at a sweetheart deal handed to the Chicago White Sox.
More than 23 years after the state of Illinois agreed to deal to build what is now known as U.S. Cellular Field, Illinois residents are still paying for it in a big way.
"Bacardi at the Park," a new restaurant, opened outside the White Sox ballpark this season at a cost of close to $7 million to Illinois taxpayers. Out of that money, the taxpayers will get absolutely none of the profits, according to WGN-TV.
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf made this deal with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority when he threatened to move his baseball team to Tampa, Fla. way back in 1988. Reinsdorf doesn't have to share profits with the man and woman on the street who paid the $3.2 million in restaurant construction costs, in addition to another $3.7 million for infrastructure upgrades that made it all possible.
Former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson who signed off on the embarrassing agreement, claims he asked Reinsdorf for "part of the profits," and the White Sox owner said no. Thompson is spinning his bewildering political decision by claiming the restaurant is a success since visitors at downtown hotels are the ones actually paying for the ballpark with a hotel tax. He also says customers of the restaurant pay sales tax, and thus that revenue helps compensate for the $7 million in costs.
So, in short, the people of Illinois built the restaurant, the Chicago White Sox picked who operates it, the Sox get to split profits with Gibson Restaurant Group who runs the restaurant -- which is closed during the offseason - and taxpayers don't get any of the profits.
This is just the beginning: The inhabitants of the Prairie State will be forced to pay for all future development plans around the ballpark, which could include a hotel and parking lot.
The Chicago Tribune reports full-service restaurants at Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field opened recently without using public funds. In Baltimore, the Maryland Stadium Authority said the Orioles would have to help in costs to build a new stadium at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The White Sox (79-83) finished 16 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central during the 2011 regular season. Manager Ozzie Guillen left to manage the Marlins and Robin Ventura took over as skipper in Chicago.
The Sox pay about $2.7 million for rent and ballpark maintenance, which is somewhat based on attendance. The lease with Chicago ends in 2029.
You can check out the video from WGN by clicking here.
This is new White Sox manager Robin Ventura, whose salary is being paid for, in part, from ballpark revenue.