May 29, 2024 - News

What's next for Bears stadium after Illinois lawmakers punt on funding

Photo of a stadium

Rendering: Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

The General Assembly's spring session came and went without any movement on funding the proposed Bears stadium on the lake.

Why it matters: Team owners wanted public funding secured this month so they could start construction this fall.

Context: The Bears and Mayor Brandon Johnson released a massive proposal last month to create a domed stadium just south of Soldier Field. It would include ample park space around the stadium and the Museum Campus.

Yes, but: The $4.7 billion proposal calls for $2 billion in public money, which Gov. JB Pritzker recently said was a "non-starter."

  • Turns out, the governor was right.

Zoom in: Legislators punted on even debating public funding for the stadium project, saying they need more time to scrutinize the proposal, and they signaled they may pick it up during the veto session this fall.

  • In Illinois, you need a three-fifths majority during the fall session to pass any new legislation.

The other side: Bears president Kevin Warren hasn't commented on the recent inaction in Springfield, but he previously said he wanted to get shovels in the ground this fall.

  • "Time is money," Warren said at the introductory press conference in April.

The intrigue: The city has a financial stake in this decision. In the new proposal, the Bears would ask the state for about $1 billion to refinance outstanding debt from previous stadium projects, including the renovation of Soldier Field and the building of the White Sox' Guaranteed Rate Field.

  • Another $1 billion would be used for infrastructure improvements around the new stadium.
  • If there is no deal, the city will continue to pay their share of the Soldier Field renovation. Those payments are set to balloon for several more years.

Zoom out: Public financing is only one obstacle the new proposal may face. Nonprofit Friends of the Parks are opposed to the project and could fight it in court, citing the city's longstanding laws that prohibit commercial building on the lakefront.

  • Also, Civic Federation's Joe Ferguson threw cold water on the project, suggesting taxpayers would be better off if the stadium was built on the Michael Reese hospital site.

The bottom line: Even though Johnson and Warren wanted to get this deal done this month, they'll have to wait until fall.

Go deeper: Here's what Illinois lawmakers did pass during the spring session


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