Chicago Cubs

Cubs, Bulls Among Teams Pushing Back on Amusement Tax Hike

As part of the city of Chicago’s 2018 budget proposal, the amusement tax on tickets sold to concerts at some of the city’s major venues will go up, and sports teams are fighting back.

Three teams, the Chicago Cubs, Bulls, and Blackhawks, have joined the Coalition to Save Jobs in the Amusement Industry, and all three tweeted in opposition to the proposed tax hike. 

The proposal would see the tax rise from 6.5 percent to 10.5 percent on tickets purchased to concerts at venues that can seat over 1500 people, according to the coalition. The plan, initially proposed in October, has been met with resistance from all five of the area’s major sports teams: 

“Chicago stands alone for many reasons that we can be proud of – but having the highest amusement taxes for fans attending sports and concerts in the United States should not be one of them,” the Cubs said in an open letter to fans. “It will cost you, the music fan, more money. By driving this tax to one of the highest in the country, Chicago will lose concerts.”

The White Sox and Bears also oppose the tax increase, according to the coalition's website.

Sporting events in the city carry an amusement tax of 12 percent, according to the teams. The city is now pushing to raise the amusement tax on concerts at bigger venues, including Soldier Field, the United Center, and Wrigley Field, by 80 percent in the new fiscal year.

The city believes that placing a higher tax on bigger venues will encourage parity in terms of the selection of concert venues by musical acts, and that it will promote neighborhood culture.

“Under the current law, a game held at one of the stadiums on a Monday is taxed at 9 percent while a concert held at the same stadium on a Tuesday is taxed at 5 percent. That doesn’t really make sense,” mayor’s office spokesman Adam Collins said. “This proposal would ensure that ticketed events at the stadiums are all taxed at the exact same rate.”

Operators of several Chicago concert venues, including Metro Chicago, Thalia Hall, and iO Chicago all came out in support of the measure, saying that the increased tax rate on bigger venues would help level the playing field in the competition for musical acts. 

"The Chicago Mayor's Office is leveling the playing field for Chicago's community theater groups and live music venues with changes to the amusement tax," Metro Chicago's Joe Shanahan said in a statement. "This is an incredibly encouraging development in regards to an issue that has been in discussion for over a decade." 

According to the budget proposal, each of the city’s venues with a capacity of over 1500 people would see an increase in their amusement tax rate, and that would likely mean higher ticket prices for consumers at those venues. 

Currently, venues that can hold 750 or more people have to pay the amusement tax on ticket sales, but under the new proposal, that number will double, as venues that hold under 1500 will be exempt from the tax. 

"This will help us bring lesser-known acts -- some sleepers, some up-and-comers -- to the forefront," Joe's Bar on Weed Street Manager Jim Fischer said. "Eliminating the tax will level the playing fields with the larger venues." 

Some aldermen have praised the plan, but others, including Ald. Scott Waugespack, called the tax change “a gimmick.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes to raise an additional $15.8 million next year through the change in amusement tax formulas. 

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