Chicago Bears' New Stadium Plan Moves to Publicly Owned Domed Stadium on Museum Campus: Source – NBC Chicago

The Chicago Bears' push to build a new stadium has focused on a publicly owned domed arena on the museum campus near Soldier Field on the city's lakefront, according to a source familiar with the project.

The Bears plan to invest more than $2 billion in private funds into the project, which will increase open space in the area by 20%, the source said.

That open space includes plazas, trails, landscaped areas, lakefront access and more. That effort — to create more public spaces in the redevelopment of the area — was aimed at appeasing the conservation group Friends of the Parks, which successfully sued to block George Lucas from building a museum on the lakefront, and the group opposed the construction. Any new theater project in the museum complex.

A source familiar with the Bears' plan cited a poll that showed 66% of Chicago residents favored a museum campus arena over a team moving to the city's suburbs. Previously, the suburban move was long overdue as the Bears purchased 326 acres in Arlington Heights in February 2023 with the intention of creating a stadium district at the site.

Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren confirmed the team's new intent to stay in Chicago in a statement, saying, “The team is committed to contributing more than $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the public to enjoy.” City of Chicago.”

“The Chicago Bears' future stadium will bring transformative opportunity to our region — boosting the economy, creating jobs, facilitating mega-events and generating millions in tax revenue,” Warren continued. “We look forward to sharing more information as our plans are finalized.”

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Also: Where will the Bears' new Chicago stadium be?

It's not yet clear what the total cost of the development will be, or where the rest of the funding for the project will come from. The shift in focus comes shortly after Illinois lawmakers admonished the bears Chicago White Sox — A new stadium would seek public dollars — to work together to come up with a plan for state funding.

Late last month, Governor JP Pritzker cast doubt on the enthusiasm for more public funding for the stadium.

“Stadium projects across the country have happened with public dollars, less and less over the years, and there's a reason for that,” Pritzker said, when asked about the teams' efforts to “prove a return on taxpayer investment now.” We'll actually move forward, and I don't see any evidence that this is a good deal for the taxpayers of the state of Illinois, but they haven't made that case yet.”

Complicating the request for public funding is the money still owed on both teams' stadiums. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which issued the bonds to build both stadiums, paid $589 million in 2002 to renovate Soldier Field and $50 million in guaranteed rates when it opened in 1991. tax, but Chicago's share of state income tax would pick up the shortfall if those revenues couldn't pay the multimillion-dollar bill. The guaranteed rate bonds are due in 2029, while the Soldier Field contract runs through 2032.

The change in direction for the Bears comes less than three weeks after the Cook County Board of Review issued its ruling in a long dispute over the team's property taxes for the Arlington Heights site.

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As the Bears were in the process of buying Arlington International Racecourse for $197 million at one time, the Cook County assessor raised the property's value from $33 million to roughly that purchase price.

The Bears appealed the assessment, arguing the property was worth $60 million. Three area school districts, which rely on property taxes for their funding, intervened in the appeal, arguing that the value is $160 million.

When the two sides couldn't reach an agreement, the review board ruled late last month that the property was worth less than $125 million.

The Bears had hoped to create a multibillion-dollar stadium district in Arlington Heights with restaurants, retail, residential real estate and more. But the group has long said building there requires two things: property tax “certainty” and public funding for infrastructure like roads and sewers.

A property tax dispute was a factor in putting a stadium back on the table in Chicago. Another was the election last year of Mayor Brandon Johnson, who publicly said he was interested in keeping bears in the city.

He and Warren met shortly after Johnson took office, pledging “regular dialogue” as they continue to negotiate.

Johnson's predecessor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, also expressed interest in keeping the bears in Chicago, with emails obtained by NBC 5 Investigates showing a strained relationship between the group and Chicago Park District officials under her administration. Much of the frustration stemmed from Soldier Field's refusal to move to consider a sportsbook.

The Bears still own the Arlington Heights property. Under a lease that runs through the end of the 2033 season, they pay more than $6 million a year to play at Soldier Field.

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