Last week I was scrolling the depths of the Twitterverse, and came across a tweet by local White Sox fan, Matt Bond, that grabbed my attention. It was the early renderings of a new concept and location for the home of the Chicago White Sox. It’s a project he’s going to be working on during his free time, if for nothing else, to show that the south side can be personified through design in another location.
The current location he’s using for his concept is being developed as part of a $7 billion project by the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. “The 78” development will be located on a 62-acre parcel of land just south of Downtown Chicago and north of Chinatown. The area is bordered by Roosevelt Road to the north, Clark Street to the east, 16th Street to the south, and the South Branch of the Chicago River to the west.
While it’s understood that the massive “The 78” redevelopment project over the 62-acre lot has commenced, the goal is to simply show that south side baseball can be personified in stadium design. If it is not in the proposed location in the South Loop, it can be somewhere else in the future. White Sox baseball has a home and place destined to be unique.
Matt Bond on his hopes for the public reaction, perception on his project.
The sprawling 62-acre property near the South Branch of the Chicago River isn’t the only space outside of the Bridgeport neighborhood that’s been the center of a vision for a new Sox ballpark, in fact, the White Sox themselves spent over $1 million to purchase 150 acres of land in west-suburban Addison’s western corridor in the late 1980s, looking to build a new ballpark there before reaching a deal to construct the current ballpark.
In 1986, residents of Addison voted 3,816-3,766 against a referendum that would have allowed the plan to move forward. The White Sox were quite possibly a mere 50 votes from moving to the western-suburbs. You can read the full story on that in a 2005 story by Brendan McCarthy for the Chicago Tribune.
Back to the present day, where the White Sox call the second-coming of Comiskey Park home, and the vision that Matt Bond is looking to create.
Bond is a construction engineer, with a degree in civil engineering of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before settling on civil engineering, Bond studied architecture and engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has frequently dabbled in graphic design, giving him all the necessary tools for this type of project.
Bond grew up on the far northwest side of Chicago, near O’Hare International Airport. His grandfather, a Pilsen native who grew up during the great depression, told him stories of the Sox teams in the 1950s, inspiring his White Sox fandom from an early age.
Bond began following the White Sox in the early 2000s, with teams that featured the likes of Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Lee as the headliners of the roster, and a 2005 World Series run while Bond was in seventh grade secured his fandom forever.
The current ballpark, Guaranteed Rate Field — or more simply know by White Sox fans as ‘Comiskey Park’, or simply ‘Sox Park’ — opened on April 18, 1991 in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. That ballpark has been — like many others — a staple of my life.
I spent my earliest years growing up in the Bridgeport neighborhood before moving to the Garfield Ridge neighborhood near Chicago’s Midway Airport for my teen years, and walking down 35th, grabbing a cheap ticket — if not free through various school promotions — to the upper deck and taking in my beloved White Sox, formed a deep love for baseball within myself.
Many have the same, or similar tales of affection for this ballpark, but it’s been nearly three decades since it opened and at the rate in which teams are throwing up brand new state-of-the-art ballparks these days, it’s not an unreasonable idea to beg the question, “what might a new ballpark look like?”.
According to Bond, he wants this concept to have a modern, futuristic feel to it.
I want the park to be very modern, almost futuristic. This ballpark will only have one row of suites, as opposed to the current two. There will be a longer overhang of the upper levels atop the lower level and the pitch of the seats will not be nowhere as steep. There will be an attempt to incorporate more glass and steel in this design, and not by just living through the classical parks of the early 20th century, in creating a modern replica and squeezing in modern assemblies. That is almost cookie-cutter in its own way.Matt Bond on his vision for the new ballpark concept.
While Bond is aiming for a more modern construction and feel, there will be a some odes to the classic traits of White Sox ballparks.
There will be double deck seating in the outfield creating home run porches in both left and right field. The outfield dimensions will be rectangular and symmetrical and of course there will be an exploding scoreboard in straight-away center. All of these, of course, are aspects of the original Comiskey Park.Matt Bond on the nostalgic touches he’ll look to incorporate into his modern theme.
Bond has drawn inspiration from a few places, including his seating hierarchy design introduced in the new Howard Terminal Ballpark concept for the Oakland Athletics, and a previously proposed Armour Field that would have been built on the property that is currently Armour Park.
As for what sparked Bond’s interest in a project like this;
“Probably reading about the Armour Field concept that was intended to be built in Armour Park just to the north of Old Comiskey. It would have had a retro feel and integrated the entire neighborhood culture around the ballpark. For a short period of time, I worked in the south loop in the Roosevelt Collection offices, just to the north of where the large vacant lot is sitting. As I would get out of work each day around dusk, I could see the stadium lights illuminating a few miles into the distance atop the canopy at Guaranteed Rate Field. Then my eyes scanned closer to the foreground and saw a steel truss bridge hovering over the Chicago River which offered a serious gritty south side vibe as the lights pierced through the fog on a chilly April evening.”
“There was no reason a park could not exist that emulated the rustic and historic roots of the south side. There would be no better location to place this envisioned ballpark but right where I was standing, looking at the green, muddy abyss where this new venue can be called home. The South Loop is close enough to downtown, yet still retains south side boundaries, while in a neighborhood bombarded with new business opportunities and construction. Add a modern flair to a rugged blue collar design, and I thought, why could this not happen?”
“I never hated the current stadium, as it’s quite nice. I just think the franchise could have done better, similar to Armour Field, which I previously began doing a graphic model of. The circulation of the current park is nice, the open concourses are expansive, and the site lines are good.
“It has come a long way since the gaudy blue color scheme offered a plastic aura to the park. I appreciate the renovations that were done in the mid 2000s by removing final eight rows of upper deck seating, adding a canopy, and adding the green seats, among other things.”
Here’s the early renderings of Matt’s project.
While it’s not likely that we’re having a realistic discussion about a new ballpark for the White Sox anytime soon, it’s an intriguing exercise that we’ll keep you updated on as Matt moves forward in his design.