Could the White Sox find happiness at Arlington Park?
The old saying goes that there are two seasons in Chicago: winter and construction.
It seems Chicago White Sox fans also have two seasons: baseball season and the season of speculating about the team abandoning its longtime home on the South Side.
With the ballclub's lease at Guaranteed Rate Field set to expire in 2029, new reports have surfaced about the team's willingness to leave the city and possibly the state.
This time, though, there's an intriguing possibility -- Arlington Park.
Arlington Heights officials say there is plenty of room at the 326-acre former horse racing facility for both its owner -- the Chicago Bears -- and the South Siders.
"The site is big enough to hold two professional stadiums," Mayor Tom Hayes said. "In fact, we did some very rough sketching, and you could actually put two professional stadiums in the infield of the racetrack."
Arlington Heights Trustee Jim Tinaglia alluded to a White Sox move to the suburb during a 2021 Daily Herald candidates forum, before the Bears paid more than $197 million for the land.
"Bring on the Bears, bring on the White Sox, or bring on new competitive teams for generations to cheer for and enjoy," he said back then.
Tinaglia said his view hasn't changed. An architect, Tinaglia said this week he's even engaged in an exercise showing how it might work.
"I took the Kansas City Chiefs' stadium and the Kansas City Royals' stadium, and I repositioned them into Arlington Park racetrack," he said of the neighboring sports facilities in Missouri. "And those two facilities fit on the infield of the racetrack. That's how big that land is."
Hayes noted there are no baseball stadium proposals before the village board, and he admits he would have concerns about bringing tens of thousands of fans to the village for at least 80 games a year.
"The Sox play most of their games at night, so noise and traffic at nighttime, especially late into the night, would be a concern," he said.
"I have always said we are looking to put the property to its highest and best use and have something unique and very exciting there that would befit the legacy of Arlington Park," Hayes added. "You can't get too much more exciting than the Bears and the Sox, unless it was the Bears and the Cubs."
Would Sox fans 'Go-Go' for it
What would White Sox fans -- many fiercely loyal to the team's South Side roots -- make of a move to the comparatively bucolic Northwest suburbs? It probably depends on whom you ask.
For Des Plaines resident John Pontikes, a Sox fan since the 1960s, it would mean more nights at the ballpark.
"Especially during the week, it's just a nightmare," he said of the trip to Guaranteed Rate Field. "I don't drive anymore, because it gets up to two hours to get there."
Instead, he boards a Metra train in Des Plaines, then walks from the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago to the CTA Green Line, which takes him to 35th Street on the South Side.
If the Sox were at Arlington Park, it would mean a 10-minute Metra ride, he said.
"I would definitely become a full season-ticket holder," Pontikes added. "I think the White Sox know that their fan base is actually in the Western suburbs. It's no longer on the South Side. It hasn't been for decades."
James Duda, a Sox fan living on the Northwest Side, agrees that Arlington Park also would make for a more convenient trip. Duda, who runs the Chicago White Sox Pride & Passion Facebook page, has attended more than 730 consecutive games at Guaranteed Rate Field.
"Personally I would love (a move to Arlington Park), because I live right at the doorstep of the (Metra) UP Northwest, which goes right there," he said.
White Sox historian and author Richard Lindberg said, "It could happen. But will they want it to happen? Will the powers that be in Springfield and in Chicago sign on with that?"
While longtime fans are familiar with the team's past links to out-of-state markets like Milwaukee, Seattle, Denver and St. Petersburg, Florida, the ballclub also has explored relocation to the suburbs.
In the 1980s, the team weighed plans for a new stadium on land at Swift Road and Lake Street in Addison that was bought by a real estate company headed by team owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
"(Then-Addison Mayor Anthony Russotto) welcomed the idea of the White Sox coming to Addison," Lindberg said. "He thought it would be a tremendous boon to the local economy and would put Addison on the map.
"Addison seemed to follow the path of the ticket-buying White Sox public. It was located near expressways, they owned the land, and it seemed a natural fit."
But the proposal ran into heavy opposition from some DuPage County leaders, including then-state Senate President James "Pate" Philip. An advisory referendum to build a $140 million, 55,000-seat stadium was put to a vote by Addison residents in November 1986. It was rejected by 43 votes, and Reinsdorf gave up on the suburbs.
Eventually, the team got its long-awaited replacement for the original Comiskey Park when the new Comiskey -- now Guaranteed Rate -- opened across the street in 1991.
As reports surfaced this week that Reinsdorf may be looking to move the team from the South Side -- or perhaps even sell the franchise -- a team spokesman did little to ease the nerves of fans who want the Sox to stay put.
"With six years left on our lease and in an ever-changing Chicago landscape, it's nearing the time to have conversations with the city, state and (Illinois Sports Facilities Authority)," spokesman Scott Reifert said in a statement.
Lindberg is skeptical the state will step up for the Sox like it did in the 1980s.
"If we're going to go through this again in a couple of years, when the lease is up, I don't think we'll have a happy outcome," he said. "There's no way the state of Illinois is going to build another facility for the White Sox. This one is only 33 years old.
"We like to think that we saved the White Sox and we would never again confront this issue. But here we are here in 2023, and now the ugly stuff is starting again."