CHICAGO (WLS) — The city of Chicago is making one last Hail Mary at keeping the Bears in the city.
Landmark Renovations released a video proposal to renovate Soldier Field to include a dome and entertainment district is showcased.
Twenty years ago, a controversial $632 million renovation reduced seating and failed to add a dome at Soldier Field. This proposal seeks to remedy that.
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The six-minute long presentation shows a reimagined Soldier Field, complete with expanded seating, premium restaurants, and an adjacent concert venue, all topped by a spectacular dome, allowing year-round use.
“Something dramatically different has to happen. The Bears have to do something,” said Landmark Development President Robert Dunn. “The building is just really deficient by all the measurables we use in sports today. Transportation, fan experience, even the simple things like ingress egress.”
Landmark Development was the lead developer for Lambeau Field, Ford Field, US Bank Stadium and MetLife Stadium.
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The dome would require rebuilding the end zones with engineered columns to support the structure, according to a Reimagine Soldier Field Coalition release.
The group proposed that Landmark and a team of local and national private investment partners build a transit hub above Metra storage tracks and a rail yard across the street from the stadium.
Seating could be increased from approximately 61,500 seats to up to 70,000 seats, including numerous fan activation areas and a youth play zone, according to the release. The number of private suites would be increased from 133 to 140, and six new clubs and experiential areas would be added.
The video also proposes quadrupling the field’s food and beverage amenities from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet.
The proposal would cost $2.2 billion. Experts say the scope of any renovation at Soldier Field depends on whether the Bears are playing there, and many observers say it’s a long shot at this point.
The team released a statement on Sunday, saying they weren’t interested.
“The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park,” the Bears said. “As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract.”
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said he expects the team to close on the former Arlington Park racetrack property in the next few weeks, and that most indications point toward the team moving to the northwest suburbs.
“There’s nothing else we can do but wait and hope this becomes a reality,” Hayes said.
The Bears are bound by contract to negotiate only with Arlington Park. And the Soldier Field proposal had other hurdles as well, including the possible opposition of Friends of the Park, which issued a statement saying, “Anyone who tries to build commercial real-estate structures on Chicago’s protected lakefront parkland can expect opposition from Friends of the Parks, up to and including legal action.”
The Bears first moved to Chicago from Decatur in 1921, and began playing at Soldier Field in 1971.
And while the proposal would add all kinds of amenities to the area and turn Soldier Field into a transportation hub, the stadium would still be owned by the city. The Bears currently pay nearly $6.5 million a year under their current Soldier Field lease.
In Arlington Heights, the Bears would own the stadium.
“That was a very impressive video, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem for the Bears, which is ownership of the stadium,” Mayor Hayes said.
“The key piece of this is they would own this, control sponsorship, signage, naming rights. There’s a huge upside for the team revenue-wise in Arlington Heights,” said Danny Ecker of Crain’s Chicago Business.
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