Apr 24, 2024 - Business

Chicago Bears dream big with lakefront stadium proposal

Rendering of a stadium

Rendering courtesy of the Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears presented city officials on Wednesday with plans, renderings and designs for a $4.6 billion stadium development on the Chicago lakefront.

The big picture: The proposal calls for a publicly owned enclosed stadium so the Bears can host major events like the Super Bowl, the World Cup, live concerts and the NCAA Final Four.

  • "In this city, we have the vision to do big things," Bears president Kevin Warren said at a press conference.
renderings of a stadium
Rendering courtesy of the Chicago Bears

Zoom in: The state-of-the-art stadium would be the centerpiece of a reimagined Museum Campus with expanded green space, 14 acres of public sports facilities and more access to the lake and nearby museums.

Yes, but: The plan calls for lots of public dollars and the demolition of Soldier Field.

  • The Bears would keep the stadium's colonnades and create park space around them.

By the numbers: The team plans to put up over $2 billion, which they say is one of the biggest investments in city history and 70% of the total cost of the new venue.

  • The Bears are asking the state to kick in the rest through the Illinois Sports Facility Authority and to pony up millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements on the Museum Campus.
  • The state still owes over $600 million for the 2003 renovation of Soldier Field, but this plan would include refinancing that debt, as well as the existing debt from the White Sox' Guaranteed Rate Field, which the state paid for in 1991.
  • The Bears say the economic impact of just building the stadium would be over $8 billion, plus billions more in ongoing tax revenue.

Reality check: "This project will result in no new taxes for the residents of the city of Chicago," Mayor Brandon Johnson said at the press conference.

Between the lines: Any new financing deal would have to be approved by the Illinois General Assembly. Gov. JB Pritzker said he remains skeptical that any stadium deal would be good for taxpayers.

Catch up quick: In 2022, the Bears secured the Arlington Park racetrack, signaling they were going to build a stadium outside Chicago.

Rendering of a stadium
Rendering courtesy of the Chicago Bears

The other side: The nonprofit Friends of the Park has already called the notion of building a stadium along the lake a non-starter and have urged the Bears to "consider alternative locations."

  • Chicago preservationists have long fought against building on the lakefront. One of those fights discouraged George Lucas in 2016 from launching his museum of narrative art here.
  • The mayor is aware of the history. "Daniel Burnham's vision for the lakefront was to center it around people," Johnson said. "This plan revitalizes that vision."

The bottom line: The Bears want a big play, but they're still far from the end zone.

Go deeper: Check out more renderings of the project

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