Sox Take a Step Closer to Playing in Shopping Mall

Come opening day, there will be a shiny new drinking establishment near Section 112 on the U.S. Cellular Field concourse. It’s called “Xfinity Zone,” which is not trademark infringement because the White Sox partnered with Comcast Corp.’s digital media brand to make this 2,200-square-foot, 12 flat-screen, social media wall, full menu, craft beer and cocktail dream a reality.

Actually, as we all know, no baseball-affiliated enterprise is really real until the circulation of the press release including the obligatory home run pun from a company executive/sports-enthusiast.

…’Comcast is looking forward to hitting it out of the park with our new Xfinity Zone at U.S. Cellular Field,' said David Williams, Comcast's regional vice president of marketing and sales and a White Sox fan.

And there we have it.

White Sox Marketing VP Brooks Boyer calls Xfinity Zone "one of the most unique and exciting additions we have made to the ballpark to date."

 Credit: Ami Prindiville

Credit: Ami Prindiville

It’s unique in one respect at least. Crain’s Danny Ecker reports the bar was “built by the Sox and Comcast without any financing from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.”

The ISFA is the government body through which the White Sox and Bears receive their stadium subsidies; this includes $5 million from the city, $5 million from the state, and more than $30 million from hotel tax revenues annually to cover stadium costs for facilities that the teams occupy tax-free. Still, owner Jerry Reinsdorf convinced the ISFA to kick in a few million extra for his previous bar/restaurant project, Bacardi at the Park.

This time the White Sox landed private financing. But unlike the state—which negotiated very little return on the stadium and zero from Bacardi at the Park—Comcast is getting something in their bargain with the Sox, even beyond the Xfinity name on the sign.

In addition to bites and beverages, Xfinity Zone “provides fans the opportunity to experience Xfinity Internet and TV services, including the new X1 Entertainment Operating System, as well as explore a live demo of Xfinity Home, Comcast's home security and automation platform,” all with salespeople on hand to sell the stuff.

I guess Comcast figures, since you’re at a ballgame drinking at a bar anyway, they might as well try to sell you a home security system. Seriously, I would say pushing state-of-the-art home entertainment technology on a mostly male demographic imbibing in your store is an unfair sales advantage.

Meanwhile, the White Sox get a cool new bar and the revenues from its pricey food and drink offerings, which they are under no obligation to share with the state that built and owns the park. And the Sox get to monopolize more of the game day restaurant traffic, further diverting it from small businesses in the area (Xfinity Zone will be open before games).

And what do the fans get? Well, for those who like to watch the White Sox game they paid the price of admission for, not much.

But I suppose the casual fan with money to burn gets to buy a ticket to a game s/he isn’t so interested in, only instead to sit in a bar on the concourse, watch another game on TV, tweet on a wall, and shop for tech gadgets.

If this is a knock-it-out-of-the-park experience for some people, well, alright I guess. At least the rest of us taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for it.