Chicago/Illinois using public dollars to build a $300 million sports stadium for a private entity? Well, we already know how this story ends, right? There’s just no possible way that they would even consider doing th …. wait … uh, what?
That’s a Sun-Times report claiming that, this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will introduce plans to build a $300 million, 12,000 seat arena for DePaul University, a private school, $100 million of which will come from taxpayers of the state. Remember when the Cubs wanted $150 million of the Wrigley Field renovation costs to come from increases in the amusement tax the city/county levies on Cubs tickets? Remember how unpopular that plan was? Remember how Mayor Emanuel buried that plan because of a political axe to grind, and then claimed repeatedly that he was never going to let public tax dollars be used to fund a private stadium?
I’m sure I’ll be blasted by all of the ways that this project does not parallel the Wrigley Field renovation, and this is totally a different, laudable thing. But, at bottom, we’re talking about public dollars directly paying for a sports facility in a city/state because that city/state feels it will help the city/state.
So why wouldn’t they use taxes received on Cubs tickets to help with the Wrigley renovation? Not because Wrigley’s presence doesn’t help the city/state. All acknowledge that it does. And it’s clearly not because of some ideological, protect-the-citizens rationale, since, hello, DePaul. No, it’s because the city/state didn’t have to. It’s because the city/state knew the Cubs would pony up on their own. So the White Sox got their public money, the Bears got their public money, DePaul will get its public money … and the Cubs will get the privilege of fighting tooth and nail to spend their own money to renovate their stadium. ‘Murica!
I can tell you one thing with confidence: whatever teeny, tiny lingering fear I had that the Cubs’ night game or signage plans would be scuttled by City Council or the Planned Development process is completely gone. There is no chance that Emanuel would push for public money for DePaul after forcing the Cubs to pay their own way, and then not keep a boot on everyone’s ass to make sure the Cubs get what he agreed they’d get.