ESPNChicago.com launched yesterday. As a business and programming idea, I think it's very smart -- the Chicago Tribune announced it is cutting 20 percent of its newsroom; the Sun-Times is bleeding sports columnists out of every orifice; sites everywhere (Huffington Post) are going local.
What's interesting is that there is plenty of room for growth: Why wouldn't SBNation aggregate its Chicago blogs into a Chicago-focused destination? Or partner up with SI or Fox or CBS? Or, at the very least, partner with the Trib's own ChicagoSports.com to expand its coverage? Because if the newspaper companies don't do something, they're going to lose one of the few things that they should do better than anyone else -- local sports (the other is crime news).
There are a couple of indie local team blogs still in play (Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Northwestern, Notre Dame) -- the smart local plays will cut inbound and outbound distribution deals with them immediately.
By the way: There is no reason this can't scale to every major sports city, and quickly. And it's not a bad thing -- not at all. Local papers can partner with the national brands, and local indie voices (such as bloggers) can gain exposure while adding a ton of editorial value.
This is what you would call a logical -- but still disruptive -- product extension for ESPN.