Local opposition nixes plan for Chicago soccer stadium, entertainment district

A project involving Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and Live Nation, which would have delivered a 20,000-seat soccer stadium and live entertainment district to the US city, has been scrapped following opposition from a local politician.

Real estate development company Sterling Bay yesterday (Tuesday) said it was reassessing its plans for the wider $6bn (£4.71bn/€5.24bn) Lincoln Yards development in the wake of the announcement from Brian Hopkins, the alderman representing the neighbourhood in which the project will be situated.

Ricketts, a senior figure within the organisation of Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Cubs, was backing the plan to deliver a United Soccer League (USL) team to play in the retractable roof stadium. Dennis Culloton, a spokesperson for the Ricketts family, told the Chicago Sun Times newspaper that the family’s “potential involvement was focused on the soccer team and contingent on city approvals.”

“While we are disappointed the concept is no longer included in the master plan, we understand the ambitious Lincoln Yards project needs to move forward,” Culloton said.

Live Nation would have co-owned the entertainment district consisting of multiple venues with capacities ranging from 3,000 to 6,000. Hopkins’ opposition to this part of Sterling Bay’s plan means that the proposed entertainment district “will be eliminated from a revised plan and replaced by restaurants, theatres, and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site.” He added that Live Nation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues.

The alderman said the decision to cut the stadium and entertainment district stemmed from strong opposition from local residents over an increase in traffic, along with concerns from local music promoters.

The CBS Chicago website added that in a recent online poll, 53% of Hopkins’ constituents were opposed to the stadium, with only 23% in favour. Hopkins said: “The idea of 20,000 fans coming to an event, then leaving hours later creating massive traffic tie-ups throughout the community—not just on the Kennedy. All the arterial streets in the vicinity would have become gridlocked.”

Regarding the entertainment district, he added: “A 6,000-seat venue, a 5,000-seat venue and a 4,000-seat venue…That was over 10,000 right there in that same location. Same impact.

“In addition to that, the independent music scene in Chicago was very concerned that Live Nation was one of the owners of the district. They had an equity stake in it. They felt that would be unfair competition to the independent music venues. By removing the entertainment district, that takes Live Nation’s equity stake out. That should satisfy concerns of the independent music promoters.”

Reacting to yesterday’s news, Sterling Bay said in a statement: “Alderman Hopkins and residents have been very clear: they do not want a stadium. And we want to say: we heard you loud and clear.

“We have removed the stadium and broken up the entertainment district, allowing for assorted smaller venues throughout Lincoln Yards where all independent music operators will have the opportunity to participate. We have also heard the desire for improved transit and infrastructure in the area, a desire we share.”

Image: Sterling Bay