Jan 23, 2023 - Sports

Landmark Development CEO on the future of Soldier Field

Football Stadium

Rendering of the Soldier Field redevelopment plan. Courtesy of Landmark Chicago Interests, LLC

With mayoral debates and forums kicking into high gear, we keep hearing the question: "What should the city do to keep the Bears?"

Why it matters: The organization has consistently signaled they want to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, even after the city proposed billions in perks to keep them at Soldier Field.

Between the lines: The team's hiring of CEO Kevin Warren — who led the Vikings' construction of U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016 — seems to cement the reality that they're leaving.

  • Maybe the real question for the candidates should instead be, "What would you do with Soldier Field?"

State of play: Earlier this month, Landmark Development released a video depicting a sparkling redevelopment of the district-run stadium.

  • But could that actually be a reality? Justin caught up with the company's CEO, Bob Dunn, to find out.

Justin: How does your Soldier Field redevelopment plan stack up against the better stadiums in the NFL?

Dunn: "I've been working on sports and NFL stadium development for over 25 years, and I truly believe that there is no comparable location — in the heart of one of the world's most exciting cities — in this country. A redeveloped Soldier Field wouldn't just make the best of the current venue, it can become the very best stadium in the world with the right vision."

  • "By keeping about 70% of the current stadium, the redevelopment could cost $1 [billion] to $1.5 billion less than building a new stadium from the ground up."

Justin: In the teaser video, I noticed you didn't use the word "Bears" or even "football." Why?

Dunn: "Soldier Field is an iconic public asset that will be with us whether the Bears continue to play there or not. I think we can agree that the stadium is currently deficient in many ways, but our video shows how it is truly possible to give players and fans the superior experience that they expect, while preserving the stadium's iconic character."

  • "If the Bears should decide to leave, we still believe that there needs to be a future for Soldier Field. We are working on a revised version of this plan for a scenario where the stadium is used for events — from international sporting events to smaller community activities."

Justin: The Bears have shown little interest in coming back to Soldier Field. The issues of size and ownership looms large. So why should the Bears even consider your plan for redevelopment?

Dunn: "The Bears are under contract with the seller of the property in Arlington Heights, and I respect that, but at the same time, the final decision is not yet made. Landmark wouldn't have studied this location, put together these plans, and developed this video if I didn't truly believe that we could address what the team and the city want."

Justin: The Sun-Times and the Trib editorial boards both came out against this redevelopment because of the risk that taxpayers would foot the bill with no sports team. Why would a redeveloped Soldier Field be in the taxpayers' interest?

Dunn: "So first off, this is a vision for what Soldier Field could become. It is achievable and beneficial, or Landmark would not have shared this."

  • "We find it interesting that the editorial boards would criticize a plan that protects the future of an important civic asset — a plan funded by private dollars — yet they provide no explanation for what happens to this building if there is no plan for improvement to Soldier Field."
  • "That outcome will become an albatross for the taxpayers of Illinois."

Editor's note: This story and headline have been corrected to reflect that the company planning the redevelopment of Soldier Field is named Landmark Development, not Landmark Preservation.


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