Chicago TV News Stations: Chicago Bears Have Revealed a Plan for Their New Stadium on the Lakefront

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The Chicago Bears are prepared to make a massive commitment to building a domed lakefront stadium to replace Soldier Field that would be a top location to host the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and other major events. According to multiple reports, including the Chicago Tribune, the Bears confirmed Monday they are planning to provide more than $2 billion in private funding to build a publicly-owned domed stadium and park space along the lakefront. “The Chicago Bears are proud to contribute over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public,” Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said in a statement. YouTube Tips ⓘ

WGN News and all other TV news stations reported early Monday that the Chicago Bears have revealed a plan for their new stadium Monday on the lakefront of the Windy City. However, there were no concept images accompanying the news, and initially there was no statement regarding the news posted on the Chicago Bears official website.

Fox 32 Digital Staff wrote, “(a) source close to the stadium project tells FOX 32 that the team is investing over $2 billion in private money into a ‘publicly owned domed stadium and park space.’

Recently, Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren, who joined the Chicago Bears on January 12, 2023, indicated a preference for the Chicago lakefront, while he also indicated the Arlington Heights property is incredible.

“If we’re fortunate enough – if we’re able to stay in Chicago – I would just say, we need to make sure it’s close to the lakefront because I think that’s what brings it all together. I always think about those money shots on Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, hosting the Super Bowl. I visualize the day that we win a Super Bowl in our stadium in Chicago, having that view of the lake, of downtown, of that beautiful city. I think that we deserve to see and explore if that’s a possibility.”

— Chicago Bears CEO Kevin Warren quoted on WGN News, referring to a Crain’s Chicago Business article “The Bears’ real focus is the lakefront, not Arlington Heights” (by Greg Hinz)

“I feel blessed to have played there, honored to have played there; but to me you don’t stay downtown because of the beautiful skyline.”

— Tom Waddle, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver, 1989-1994/NBC Documentary “Bear Down and Out: Chicago’s Team Moves to the Suburbs (March 2023)

Last week, the Chicago Bears announced the appointment of Karen Murphy, from the executive ranks, to be the newly created executive vice president of stadium development and chief operating officer.

As of 11:30 a.m. Monday (over six hours after the news leak), the official Chicago Bears website, did not mention news about the lakefront plans. Also, the official Chicago Bears website subdomain had no mention of the abandonment of — or diversion away from — the Arlington Park plans. The latest article published on the blog style subdomain as of Monday morning was an open letter regarding the closing on the Arlington Park Property dated February 15, 2023.

Lackluster welcoming on Planning and Development concepts from the Village of Arlington, and a battle over property tax with three area school districts — Community Consolidated School District 15, High School District 211, and High School District 214 — have caused a stalemate for development of the former Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights.

On the official website for Arlington Heights, there was no mention of this morning’s lakefront stadium news in the “Arlington Park Redevelopment” section — as of 8:30 a.m. The latest post from December 2023 indicated “(a)ll structures have been removed from the Property in compliance with the Permits. The Property is vacant land pursuant to the Village of Arlington Heights Village Code. All Village inspections for the Permits are complete and the Permits are conditionally closed pending seeding of the Property, which will be completed in the spring of 2024 when the weather breaks. The Village will close out the Permits after seeding is complete.”

The Chicago Bears are planning to build a lakefront domed stadium south of Solider Field and not on land in Arlington Heights (ABC 7 Chicago).
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TV news stations ABC 7 Chicago, CBS Chicago, NBC 5 Chicago, WGN News, and Fox 32 Chicago all reported on the apparent shift in plans from Arlington Park in Arlington Heights to a lakefront, domed, privately-funded stadium in the City of Chicago.

CBS Chicago also reported that Bears President Kevin Warren released a statement.

“The Chicago Bears are proud to contribute over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public to enjoy in the City of Chicago. The future stadium of the Chicago Bears will bring a transformative opportunity to our region—boosting the economy, creating jobs, facilitating mega events and generating millions in tax revenue. We look forward to sharing more information when our plans are finalized.”

— Bears CEO Kevin Warren

The lakefront stadium could face strong opposition from Friends of the Park — a lakefront protection and public trust.

Friends of the Parks, which successfully sued to block George Lucas from erecting a museum on the lakefront, indicated in December 2023 that the group would fight any proposal by the Chicago Bears to build on the lakefront (Patty Wetli/WTTW/December 8, 2023). Filmmaker George Lucas confirmed in June 2016 that he was abandoning his plans to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the lakefront with plans to move the museum to the West Coast. According to online architecture, interiors and design magazine Dezeen, the plans for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art south of Soldier Field were approved by Chicago’s City Council in October 2015. Friends of the Parks filed the injunction of the museum project in November 2014, arguing that the museum is a private development on public land that would spoil the area.

An ordinance largely prohibits new building construction east of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, according to the WTTW article.

“We stand on the shoulders of past heroes who fought to keep (the lakefront) ‘open, clear and free’ when we say to the Chicago Bears: Our lakefront parkland is for the people and not for private interests. We continue to advocate for it to be a greener, more accessible space, and we will not stand by and watch anyone try to use it for real estate development.”

— Fred Bates, Friends of the Parks board member and legal strategist

“Friends of the Parks stands firm in the role of lakefront protector as we have for many decades. That parcel is protected by the Illinois public trust doctrine and the City of Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance.”

— Executive Director Juanita Irizarry

Initially, there was no estimate available from any source regarding how much in legal costs the Chicago Bears would need to be prepared to spend to battle Friends of the Park; and there is no information today indicating that Friends of the Park have planned to abandon a fight to protect open park space at the lakefront.

A Google satellite view shows that open space near Soldier Field is smaller than space near the existing stadium (Imagery ©2024 Googole, TerrraMetrics, Imagery ©2024 Airbus, CNES / Airbus, Maxar Technolgies, Sanborn, U.S. Grological Survey, USDA/FPAC/GEO, map data ©2024 Google)
A Google satellite view shows that open space near Soldier Field is smaller than space near the existing stadium, indicating that the plans might involve another renovation and seating expansion for Soldier Field (Imagery ©2024 Googole, TerrraMetrics, Imagery ©2024 Airbus, CNES / Airbus, Maxar Technolgies, Sanborn, U.S. Grological Survey, USDA/FPAC/GEO, map data ©2024 Google).

In January 2023, real estate development company Landmark Development released a concept that would once again convert Soldier Field for another expansion.

Landmark Development released a Soldier Field renovation proposal video, showcasing a new dome in January 2023; but the Chicago Bears aren’t convinced (SOURCE: ABC 7 Chicago). YouTube Tips ⓘ

In March 2023, NBC Sports published a video on the Chicago Bears’ potential move out of Chicago, analyzing the potential move from all angles.

As the Chicago Bears look to leave Soldier Field for Arlington Heights, “Bear Down and Out” explores the potential move from all angles, giving viewers an inside look at the saga as it unfolds (50-minute documentary NBC Sports Chicago). YouTube Tips ⓘ

Also, in late February 2023, NBC Chicago reported on emails that showed a draft that Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office pushed to publicly present a united front with the Sox and the City of Chicago following a meeting with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. In the video report from Mary Ann Ahern, NBC Chicago also reported on the push for a combined proposal involving a new White Sox Stadium and a Chicago Bears stadium. The NBC Chicago video also showed Gov. JB Pritzer saying the one thing the White Sox and Chicago Bears have in common are that they are looking for taxpayer dollars. Then Ahern explained that taxpayers still owe millions on their current stadiums. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority owes $50 million for Guaranteed Rate stadium and $589 million for the 2002 renovation of Soldier Field — a total of $639.

Documents obtained by NBC 5 Investigates and reported on October 28, 2022 show the actual bond issue by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for the renovation of Soldier Field came to $398 million. But today (in October 2022), more than 20 years after that money was borrowed, the ISFA still owes over $383 million in principal, and more than $256 million in interest. Soldier Field is not owned by the Chicago Bears; Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District, which hosts many other events at Soldier Field. Initially, there were no details regarding who would own a new domed stadium by the lakefront, except that the stadium would be “publicly owned.”

See also …

NBC Chicago Taxpayers Still Owe $640M on 2002 Soldier Field Renovation (October 28, 2022)

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