CHICAGO — For more than 90 years, the Chicago White Sox have played in a South Side ballpark called Comiskey Park.
Now that the stadium’s name has been turned into an advertisement for U.S. Cellular, some are calling it “Sell-Your-Soul Field.”
Three days after announcing that the company paid $68 million to rename the ballpark U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said the money would go toward making it more fan-friendly.
“This is going to be a much better place for our fans,” he said.
Of course, many in Chicago say that if Reinsdorf had built a decent stadium in 1991, he wouldn’t have to sell the naming rights to pay for renovations. The new Comiskey Park has been criticized as a soulless concrete blob, with frighteningly steep steps to the upper deck.
The year after the new Comiskey opened, Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in Baltimore and immediately showed how great a new ballpark could be. Oddly, it was designed by the same architecture firm that produced Comiskey Park.
“We had to cut some corners,” Reinsdorf said of his taxpayer-financed stadium. “This will enable us to do it and get it right.”
Not everyone is thrilled about the change.
“I don’t see myself saying, ‘Let’s go over to U.S. Cellular Field and catch a game,”‘ says lifelong White Sox fan Mike Houlihan, who grew up on the South Side. “It doesn’t roll right off the tongue.”
Charles A. Comiskey III, grandson of the team’s founder, said he was disappointed the family name was coming off the stadium, but he understood that it’s part of the business of sports today.
The original Comiskey Park was the home of the White Sox from 1910 to 1990, before it was torn down to make way for the new ballpark.
In a city where the neighborhood can be everything and people will argue over who makes a more authentic Italian beef sandwich, White Sox fans tend to sneer at Chicago Cubs fans as yuppies, while viewing themselves as true heirs to the legacy of the city.
“It just makes you sick,” Houlihan said. “I am disgusted, just disgusted.”