Bears unveil plans for new stadium near Soldier Field, will include fixed roof

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Bears unveil plans for new stadium near Soldier Field, will include fixed roof

By Jenna West, Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns

After playing at Soldier Field for nearly 100 years, the Chicago Bears will build a new multipurpose stadium just south of their current home.

Bears president Kevin Warren unveiled plans Wednesday for the franchise to build a lakefront stadium with a fixed roof and a 20 percent increase in green space on the museum campus outside the stadium for visitors to enjoy. Warren said the new stadium will allow the Bears to hold more concerts and events and give them a chance to bid on hosting a Super Bowl.

The goal is to get approval during the current legislative session, with shovels in the ground by the summer of 2025 that could allow a stadium to open by 2028, Warren said.

Sports fields and gardens will replace Soldier Field, with the stadium’s historic colonnades preserved as a tribute to Chicago’s military veterans. The Bears will continue playing at Soldier Field while the new stadium is under construction.

“This marks a pivotal moment for Chicago as we introduce a visionary project prioritizing the public good,” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. “The proposed stadium, accompanied by expanded open spaces and recreational facilities, exemplifies my administration’s commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Chicagoans. … I look forward to the positive impact it will have on our beloved city.”

The stadium project will cost $3.2 billion, and Bears ownership will contribute $2 billion toward that proposed cost. Karen Murphy, the Bears executive vice President of stadium development and COO, said the club will apply for a $300 million NFL loan as part of the private investment plan.

Johnson said the project will not result in new taxes on the city’s residents.

While the capacity for the new stadium will be similar to Soldier Field (65,000 seats), the plan is to include more standing-room-only options.

Other stadium project plans include improving access to the museum campus near the stadium with better infrastructure and adding public restrooms and food and beverage options for park users.

The Bears last underwent a major renovation on Soldier Field 20 years ago, and previously planned to move the team to the suburbs north of Chicago.

In September 2021, the Bears signed a purchase agreement to buy a 326-acre plot of Arlington Park racecourse property in Arlington Heights, Ill. The idea was to build a stadium and create a “mixed-use” area full of restaurants, bars and hotels that provide the franchise with more revenue. The deal was finalized in February 2023 and the horserace track was demolished.

But the team turned its attention back to Chicago as arguments over school districts and real estate taxes for the Arlington Park property stalled the project. The Cook County Board of Review recently appraised the land at $125 million. The Bears have argued it should be valued at $60 million, and an appeal by the team is likely.

In March, Warren made it clear at the NFL owners’ meetings that building a new stadium in Chicago on the lakefront was the priority for the team, rather than Arlington Park.

Despite the Bears’ $197.2 million purchase of a 326-acre plot of the Arlington Heights property, Warren said at the owners’ meeting that the team was focused on bringing a state-of-the-art stadium to Chicago.

Bears chairman George McCaskey echoed Warren later in the day.

“We want what’s best for Bears fans and what’s best for the community,” McCaskey said. “And if that can be done on the museum campus, we’d be thrilled.

“That area is a jewel of our great city. But it needs better access. And this is an opportunity to provide that and bring out all that the Museum Campus has to offer. And I think if we do it right, it will be great for the museums, great for Bears fans, great for the people of the city of Chicago and great for the region.”

Warren played a major role in helping the Vikings build U.S. Bank Stadium, a domed venue considered one of the best in the NFL. He envisioned something similar for the Bears and unveiled those plans Wednesday.

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(Photo courtesy of Chicago Bears)