A White Elephant for White Sox

United Press International

Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, is the oldest ballpark in professional baseball, but it's still considered one of the best places to watch a game in the major leagues.

But just how profitable for White Sox owners is the 70-year-old-plus facility?

In an era of multi-purpose sports structures, Comiskey Park remains a white elephant of sorts, says White Sox board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. As a result, Reinsdorf and the White Sox are weighing the possibility of building their own structure.

Reinsdorf should know about real estate values. Before his days as the principal owner of the White Sox, he was one of the Midwest's biggest real estate developers. His Balcor Corp. was recently purchased by Shearson-American Express.

"When we bought the team, we did everything we could to build up Comiskey Park," recalls Reinsdorf, who headed the group that bought the Sox from Bill Veeck in 1981. "Actually, it's not the ideal structure for our needs."

The major problem Reinsdorf and his shareholders face is that Comiskey Park remains virtually dormant from October until April. The NASL Chicago Sting is a part-time tenant, but the revenue generated from the club's use of the field is minimal.

Last year, Reinsdorf brought in a Simon and Garfunkel concert, but the problems connected with an outdoor concert often outweigh the financial benefits. He also agreed to the Jacksons' Victory tour last October.

"There's the problem of damaging the sod," Reinsdorf explains.

Building a new stadium isn't at the top of the White Sox priority list. Reinsdorf says the club has a facility and is just at a point where the money the investors poured in to rebuild the club is beginning to show profits.

But eventually, White Sox dollars could be better invested in a facility that could provide housing for other tenants besides the baseball team.

"My eyes really opened up last year. Balcor handled the purchase for Harry Ornest of the Checkerdome in St. Louis. We really learned how many other things can come into a building or facility you own that can generate dollars," Reinsdorf says.

The White Sox could build their own stadium and invite horse shows, tractor pulls, motocross and other exhibitors into the facility. In addition, there are possibilities for convention business.

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