Bears' Soldier Field Dome Proposals Revealed by Mayor; Could Cost $2.2B

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 25, 2022

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

If Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has her way, the Bears will continue to play at a renovated Soldier Field inside the Windy City for years to come.

The team agreed to purchase the now-shuttered Arlington International Racecourse in the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights, but Lightfoot introduced proposals to potentially keep the NFL team where it is and perhaps even add a dome to Soldier Field:

Dana Rebik @DanaRebikWGN

Mayor Lightfoot introduces 3 concepts for future of Soldier Field: building a dome, keeping open air but dome ready, or multi-purpose concept. First 2 would increase capacity from 61,500 to 70,000 <a href="https://twitter.com/WGNNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WGNNews</a> <a href="https://t.co/dSsPcVXIVx">pic.twitter.com/dSsPcVXIVx</a>

Larry Hawley @HawleySports

Here are the released renderings of a proposed "Dome" renovation of Soldier Field released by the Mayor's office today. There are three possible renovations for the stadium - two of which include the expansion of the stadium to 70,000. <a href="https://twitter.com/WGNNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WGNNews</a> <a href="https://t.co/oYiBPVNVyi">pic.twitter.com/oYiBPVNVyi</a>

As Dana Rebik of WGN noted, building a dome or keeping the stadium an open-air concept with the ability to add a dome would increase capacity from an NFL-lowest 61,500 to 70,000.

However, a third option means the stadium could be renovated to continue hosting the MLS' Chicago Fire and other events, such as college football games and concerts, even if the Bears move to Arlington Heights.

Fran Spielman and David Roeder of the Chicago Sun-Times reported adding a dome to Soldier Field could cost up to $2.2 billion, while Rebik noted developer Bob Dunn—who has helped in stadium development projects for other NFL teams—said the dome would save $1 to $1.5 billion compared to building an entirely new stadium in Arlington Heights.

"We need to invest in Soldier Field. Soldier Field must be a year-round destination," Lightfoot said. "We must enhance the fan experience. And that's precisely what we aim to do. We are making a compelling case for the Bears to stay in Chicago. They want a Tier One stadium to maximize revenues and we agree."

Yet the team reissued the same statement it did earlier this month and pointed to the agreement it signed to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse for $197.2 million.

"The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park," the statement said. "As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of the property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while under contract."

That Lightfoot is so directly involved in unveiling these different proposals is notable considering it wasn't long ago she used the situation as a chance to poke fun at the franchise.

In June 2021, the mayor released a statement calling the Bears' decision to explore moving to Arlington Heights a "negotiating tactic" and noting, "like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October."

While the Bears' lease with Soldier Field runs through 2033, they can break it as early as 2026 for a fee of $84 million.


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