Though its neighbor—and bitter rival—to the north might grab more national attention and tourist dollars, Chicago’s South Side ballpark is a fun and relatively affordable place to watch Major League Baseball. Wrigley Field is known as the friendly confines, but Sox Park can be equally welcoming and family-oriented despite the neighborhood’s rougher-around-the-edges, blue-collar reputation.
The White Sox fanbase is a diverse, enthusiastic, and unpretentious bunch that takes a relaxed but no-nonsense approach to the game. When the White Sox have a terrible year (and they’ve had more than a few), the franchise has never been able to hide behind a “lovable losers” persona and still enjoy sell-out crowds like the Cubs.
The White Sox’s 2005 World Series win may still be fresh in the minds of loyal fans but for other Chicagoans—and sports network ESPN—the team’s most recent triumph is often forgotten. The situation can be seen as a microcosm of how the media covers—or rather doesn’t cover—the South Side.
This year’s team is young and looks poised for another rebuilding season, but there are still compelling arguments to head to the ballpark to enjoy a game in 2019.
Whether you’re visiting because you’re a diehard Sox fan, there to see a visiting team play, or just put off by Wrigley Field’s pricey tickets, here’s everything you need to know about the home of the Chicago White Sox—starting with what to call the place.
What’s in a name?
Like the classic 1910 ballpark it replaced in 1991, the current stadium was originally named Comiskey Park after White Sox founder Charles Comiskey. In 2003, U.S. Cellular purchased the naming rights and rebranded the facility as U.S. Cellular Field. Though the change angered traditionalists, most fans shrugged it off. Some even embraced “The Cell” as a nickname.
Just when the sting losing Comiskey was starting to wear off, the venue officially changed its name once again after retail mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate penned a 13-year deal to call the stadium Guaranteed Rate Field in 2016. Once more, outrage ensued. The Chicago Sun-Times even published an article titled “There can’t be a worse name than Guaranteed Rate Field. Can’t be.” The agreement also came with universally unloved corporate signage sporting a big, red downward facing arrow.
With the Sears Tower becoming Willis and the John Hancock Center dropping its famous moniker, Chicagoans tend to be a stubborn bunch when it comes to clinging to old names. Sure, some folks are calling the park “G Rate,” but for an older generation it simply never stopped being Comiskey. For others, the all-encompassing term “Sox Park” can apply to all of the above and rolls off the tongue with greater ease.
Bottom line, there’s nothing wrong with using the stadium’s correct Guaranteed Rate Field name. At the same time, no one’s going to look down you for choosing to keep it old school.
Missing the retro boat
From an architectural standpoint, Guaranteed Rate Field was conceived during an awkward time in sports stadium design. Built in 1991, the postmodern structure lacked not only an emotional connection to the outdated stadium it replaced but also the quirks and charms found in the newer wave of “retro classic” ballparks like Baltimore’s trend-setting Camden Yards.
Ten years later, White Sox ownership eventually undertook a major multi-phase renovation project to address one of the ballpark’s least loved features: its terrifyingly too-high upper-deck. In all, 6,600 seats were removed during the process. The remaining bright blue seats were swapped out for more traditional forest green colored replacements.
A darker color scheme spread to other parts of the stadium which played to the Sox’s “Good guys wear black” marketing mantra. Other steps to bring more character and personality to the ballpark including realigning the outfield fencing to be less symmetrical and, hopefully, spice up the gameplay.
On its surface, Guaranteed Rate Field is a perfectly fine professional baseball venue but it will always face unfavorable comparisons to the former Comiskey Park and, of course, Wrigley Field. Both older stadiums were even designed by the same architect, Zachary Taylor Davis.
Best games to attend
It’s been said that a bad day at the ballpark still beats a good day at the office. But if you can’t skip out of work for the midday home opener against the Seattle Mariners on April 4, there are lots of other great games worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
The ballpark’s specialty games include heritage nights (Polish, Italian, Greek, and Hispanic!) as well as Elvis, the Beatles, Star Wars, and country music themes. Even the most serious fans can’t help but embrace the fun of “Mullet Night.” These themed events are typically accompanied by post-game fireworks.
Guaranteed Rate also offers a quick-to-sell-out annual Dog Day during which the outfield sections get overrun by furry four-legged Sox fans and their human companions. In 2016, the stadium’s “Bark at the Park” set a new Guinness World Record for the most canines at a live sporting event.
The 2019 home season will feature 12 “Family Sundays” with tickets as low as $5 in the upper level and $15 in the lower level. These games include kid-focused activities throughout the concourse level and the opportunity for little ones to run the bases afterward.
Save for another run at the World Series, arguably the most important White Sox games of the year take place during the crosstown rivalry against the dreaded Chicago Cubs. With bragging (gloating?) rights on the line, there’s perhaps no other series each Chicago fanbase would most like to see their respective team win.
This year, the series features two games at each stadium. The bitter rivals will square off at Wrigley Field on June 18 and 19 before heading south to Guaranteed Rate Field on July 6 and 7.
Getting to the stadium
When it comes to getting to and from the home of the Chicago White Sox, fans have multiple options with the easiest—and most affordable—being public transit. CTA riders have two options: the Green Line stop at 35th Street-Illinois Institute of Technology and the Red Line’s easy to remember Sox-35th Street stop. For Metra riders, the Rock Island Line utilizes the nearby ‘35th Street / ‘Lou’ Jones’ station. All are within a five-minute walk of the park.
If you must drive, Guaranteed Rate is still relatively convenient due to its proximity to the Dan Ryan Expressway and over 7,000 nearby parking spaces. The sea of asphalt surrounding the ballpark lends itself well to pre-game tailgating—something that Wrigley Field will never have.
Many ticket packages include prepaid vouchers that correspond to specific lots. Fans can also pay on game day to park in lots F, L, or G for $20 Monday through Saturday and $10 for Sunday games. Official White Sox parking lots accept both cash and credit cards.
The White Sox affiliated lots open approximately two hours before each game, unless noted otherwise, and close 30 minutes after games conclude. Post-game tailgating is strictly forbidden. Additional info on lot locations, parking coupons, and priority accommodations for guests who are physically disabled can be found here.
Uber and Lyft
Patrons of Guaranteed Rate Field can also make use of the various ride-hailing companies. Uber is the “preferred rideshare partner” of the White Sox and has a dedicated pickup zone in Lot A marked by flags. First time Uber users (if such people still exist in 2019?) can get $15 off their ride with the promo code ChiWhiteSox. Taxis queue on 35th Street between Gates 4 and 6.
Bicycle racks are located between Gates 2 and 3 and along 35th Street by Gate 5. Users of Chicago’s Divvy bike share networks will find the closest station at the southwest corner of Wentworth Avenue and 35th Street. Other nearby Divvy docks include Armour Square Park and various locations around the Illinois Institute of Technology campus.
Where to sit
Since Guaranteed Rate was designed with minimal overhangs and obstructions, there’s really no such thing as a bad seat. The mostly open-sky nature of the ballpark, however, should be a consideration when rain is threatening—so prepare accordingly. With only the back 10 rows of the lower level covered, most seats are exposed to the elements. Smaller umbrellas are allowed but the larger golf-style are prohibited.
The lower 100 level of the park features both individual and bleacher seats and the most extensive selection when it comes to food, drinks, and souvenirs. The 100 level includes the Bullpen Porch in right field, the turf-side Craft Kave (spelled with a backward K), and center field’s CBIC Fan Deck which can be reserved for large group events. History buffs can check out a shower from old Comiskey located near Section 161. The functional fixture is also a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Moving higher in the stadium is the 300 level. This area includes the ballpark’s posh private skyboxes as well as a band of premium outdoor seats served by attentive wait staff. Tickets here are obviously more expensive but come with perks such as access to indoor lounge seating, specialty concessions, and the Skyline Sports Bar.
The ballpark’s upper deck might be the best value in baseball, but a 500 level ticket can carry restrictions that limit access to the lower concourses and concessions. If you are hoping to explore everything Guaranteed Rate has to offer, a 500 level ticket may not be the way to go. Ticket checking can be an inconsistent affair, so sneaking lower is possible but certainly not guaranteed.
What to eat
Guaranteed Rate Field has elevated its food options in recent years with diverse selection including Polish pierogis, Cuban sandwiches, Irish nachos (tater tots instead of chips), tamales, Italian beef, and deep-dish pizza.
New for this year is a partnership with Chicago-based Antique Taco, which has taken over the two taco stands on the stadium’s main concourse. Vegans also have an additional option as well thanks to the Impossible Burger, available on the club level.
There are also old standbys like the Comiskey Dog, a Vienna Beef frank served on a soft poppy seed bun. Order it with “the works”— toppings of yellow mustard, chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill spear, tomatoes, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. Add ketchup at your own peril.
Another fan favorite is elotes—or corn off the cob topped with salt, butter, cayenne pepper, cheese, mayo, and lime. The savory Mexican treat features corn freshly shucked off the cob, never from a can.
A number of ballparks across the country serve ice cream or nachos in miniaturized plastic baseball helmets, but G-Rate ups the ante by offering both in full, adult-sized hard hats. Featuring no less than 12 scoops of the cold stuff, the park’s three-pound sundae (estimated to contain up to 5,000 calories) is best shared with friends. Or not. This is Chicago after all. No one will judge.
When it comes to adult beverages, the park continues to up its craft beer game. There’s a new focus on local breweries at the Revolution-branded bar in left field and a rebranded Goose Island seating section and beer garden in right field. Keep in mind that these high-brow brews tend to command premium prices say over a Bud or Miller Lite. Beer sales stop after the last out of the 7th inning.
For the first time, Sox Park will offer boozy warm drinks, including apple cider is spiked with Fireball and hot chocolates with Jim Beam whisky and Patrón tequila. Both come served in a souvenir mug and are available on both the 100 and 500 level concourses, says Eater.
Guaranteed Rate’s swankiest culinary option is the fine-dining Stadium Club managed by Levy Restaurants. Access here, however, is reserved for members holding season tickets plus an additional $1000 per year. Unless you’re a high-roller or a guest of a member, chances are you’re not getting in the glass-walled restaurant overlooking right field.
Names to know
So how are the White Sox looking? Well, considering that the team lost 18 of its final 24 games to finish the 2018 season with a .383 record, the ballclub isn’t necessarily expected to set the baseball world on fire.
That being said, the 2019 White Sox have a handful of experienced players and plenty of young talent that could hold the key to turning another rebuilding season into a winner one. Here are some players—and other personalities—to know.
Top prospect Eloy Jiménez will make his highly anticipated major league debut with the Sox, starting at left field on opening day. The 22-year-old Dominican-born player signed a six-year, $43 million contract in March and expectations couldn’t be higher. Is Jiménez a superstar in the making? South Siders are hoping the answer is yes.
Another player to watch is 26-year-old shortstop Tim Anderson. In 2017 the team offered Anderson a six-year contract worth $25 million, a White Sox record for a player with less than one full year with the club. This season should provide Anderson with an opportunity to cement his position as a team leader—and also improve upon last season’s slump.
With such a youthful lineup, the team will lean heavily on the experience of 32-year-old first baseman Jose Abreu, who is on the last year of his contract. The popular Cuban-born player has five seasons with the White Sox under his belt, but some speculate that this year might be his last.
There are some important off-field names to know too. Some locals will recognize a familiar voice over Guaranteed Rate’s public address system. It belongs to announcer Gene Honda who lends his vocal service to both the Chicago Blackhawks and DePaul University basketball.
Southpaw, the White Sox’s green, fur-covered mascot made his Major League debut in 2004. The name references not only a baseball term for a left-handed pitcher but the team’s home on the South Side of Chicago. While some fans have theorized that Southpaw is modeled on a reptile or a dirty sock, he’s “just a big fuzzy green dude,” according to an interview.
Every Chicagoan is—or at least should be—familiar with the name Jerry Reinsdorf. Team owner of not only the White Sox since 1981 but also the six championship-winning Chicago Bulls, Reinsdorf is one of the most influential figures in Chicago sports.
The outspoken owner has always done his part to stoke the cross-town rivalry. “The North Siders always tended to look down on South Siders,” Reinsdorf told Newsweek in 1990. “Part of being a White Sox fan is you hate the Cubs.”
Three tunes you should know
Though we associate the stadium-wide singing of Take Me Out the Ballgame with the Cubs during the 7th inning stretch, the tradition actually originated at old Comiskey.
It all started in 1976 when White Sox owner Bill Veeck noticed broadcaster Harry Caray humming along whenever the organ played the tune. Veeck convinced the reluctant announcer to grab his microphone and sing along.
With that, the song went from background music to a show-stopping event. Caray left for the Cubs in 1982 and his 7th inning act soon became part of Cubs folklore as well.
Like their neighbors to the north with Go Cubs Go, the White Sox have a song that is uniquely their own. Titled Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox the tune debuted in 1959 and is a college-style fight song in a similar vein to Bear Down. The song is played after big run-scoring plays. The words are usually up on the video board, so sing along!
For years AC/DC’s Thunderstruck has been tasked with pumping up the fans before the home team takes the field. The song was briefly removed from the pregame playlist in 2015 only to quickly return after a tweet-storm from angry fans. The classic rock tune is accompanied by firework blasts from the stadium’s trademark exploding scoreboard.
- What To Eat At Guaranteed Rate Field, Home Of The Chicago White Sox [Eater Chicago]
- South Side Sox [SB Nation]