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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lincoln Yards Soccer Stadium Not Happening — But Fight Against TIF Funding For Development Continues

The 20,000-seat stadium was to be home to a United Soccer League team owned in part by the Ricketts family.

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CHICAGO — The 20,000-seat soccer stadium that had been planned for the Lincoln Yards development is gone.

The proposed stadium, which was to be home to a United Soccer League team owned by the Cubs’ Tom Ricketts, was rejected by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who wants an open park there instead, he said in a statement on Tuesday. He also came out against the development’s “Entertainment District,” which has been a source of controversy among local music venues.

Parts of the Lincoln Yards development are in Hopkins’ ward. His decision was first reported by Chicago Tribune columnist Ryan Ori.

Sterling Bay, the company behind the Lincoln Yards development, said it had removed plans for the stadium.

“While much of the feedback has been positive, Ald. Hopkins and residents have been very clear: they do not want a stadium. And we want to say: we heard you loud and clear,” the developers said in a statement. “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.”

Sterling Bay is updating its “master plan” to remove the proposed stadium, according to the developers.

Hopkins worried about how the stadium would impact traffic, as a full stadium would mean 20,000 people going to and leaving the area during events, he said Tuesday. His office also sent out a survey about Lincoln Yards and found more than half of the respondents were opposed to the stadium.

“It just didn’t seem the proposed infrastructure that we’re talking about would be sufficient to accommodate that additional crowd,” Hopkins said. “We would have expected major backups on the Kennedy spilling over into the arterial streets … .”

And removing one of the more “objectionable” parts of the development could help community members support the parts of the Lincoln Yards plant hat remain, Hopkins said.

Lincoln Yards is a $5 billion development project that includes high rises, parks and commercial buildings along the North Branch of the Chicago River between Webster and North avenues.

Developer Sterling Bay has scaled back its plans and added green space to Lincoln Yards following public meetings, but the city is expected to put $800 million in taxpayer money toward the development — which has angered some residents. 

The development could also include a Live Nation concert hall, though local music venues are fighting that.

Reject Lincoln Yards TIF – CIVL, the group of independent music venues in Chicago, announced it has already gathered more than 2,000 signatures in a petition drive to encourage the city to pump the brakes on approval of the Cortland/Chicago River tax increment financing district. The TIF would surround the site of the proposed Lincoln Yards redevelopment along the North Branch of the Chicago River, including a new performance venue that small operators worry would muscle them out.

“The planning process has not been transparent, comprehensive, or responsive, and it has not challenged the developers to show what they could build without $800 million in public TIF funds,” the petition reads, in part. “Fast-tracking this TIF for approval just before you step down is not accountable decision-making. I urge you to defer any further decisions on the TIF and Lincoln Yards until a new Mayor and City Council take office.”

The city’s Department of Planning and Development said the area’s blighted conditions, “which resulted from a long history of underutilized industrial land, qualify for a TIF designation under Illinois’ TIF statute,” and that “major public infrastructure improvements are needed to transition the area to a modern, mixed- use business corridor.”

The group, which included Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and mayoral candidates Paul Vallas, Lori Lightfoot, Amara Enyia and La Shawn K. Ford, held a news conference on the issue last month.

Get more in-depth daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.