Chicago Bears release $4.2B stadium plans

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Dive Brief:

  • The NFL’s Chicago Bears unveiled their $4.2 billion plan to build a state-of-the-art fixed roof stadium along the city’s lakefront to replace the aging and historic Soldier Field, the franchise announced Wednesday.
  • The new publicly owned multipurpose replacement stadium, to be located just south of Soldier Field, is part of the Burnham Park Project: a year-round hub centered on park-based culture and recreation, per the release. The development will include 14 acres of athletic fields and park space open to the public and youth sports programs.
  • The Bears said that the project will encompass $4.2 billion of direct capital investment. The organization will spend more than $2 billion of its own cash to realize the vision, according to the franchise’s cost breakdown. Public infrastructure funds will provide another $1.5 billion across three phases, and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, a body created by the Illinois General Assembly to build stadiums, is the proposed resource that will provide another $900 million in cash. Some of the funding awaits legislative approval from the state of Illinois, per The Pantagraph.

Dive Insight:

The new stadium would have a contemporary architectural design with an enclosed, fixed roof, per the release — a departure from the open-air tradition of the Bears’ current stadium. It would also be capable of hosting Super Bowls and NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments.

“Our founder, George Halas, emphasized the importance of being a champion for Chicago. This has been part of the foundation of our organization,” said George H. McCaskey, Bears chairman, in the release. “That is why we are excited to invest in the greatest city in the world through a stadium project and site improvements that will benefit Chicagoans and visitors.”

In addition to the athletic amenities, the mixed-use development features a 3-acre promenade and plaza, which could include year-round food and beverage outlets, retail shops and a cultural attraction focused on sports and Soldier Field history, per the release. A publicly-owned hotel could also be included on the recreation and cultural campus.

Looking for improvement

Soldier Field has a storied past: It made its debut nearly a century ago in October 1924, and has hosted famous boxing matches, presidential addresses and the first Special Olympics, according to the stadium’s website.

However, it has its fair share of issues. The Athletic ranked Soldier Field the 23rd most popular out of all 30 NFL stadiums, and six ballots ranked it among the top four worst. It’s also the league’s smallest venue, according to NBC Sports Chicago.

The Bears aren’t the only NFL franchise investing in a new stadium. The Tennessee Builders Alliance — made of New York City-based Turner Construction; AECOM Hunt out of Indianapolis; Brentwood, Tennessee-headquartered Polk & Associates Construction; and Nashville, Tennessee-based ICF Builders & Consultants — broke ground on the $2.1 billion New Nissan Stadium in Nashville, the future home of the Tennessee Titans, on Feb. 29. 

The Bears are aiming to break ground in the summer of 2025, with a planned grand opening in the summer of 2028.

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