Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears shift stadium focus to lakefront, away from suburbs: Report

NBC Universal, Inc.

After long consideration of a potential move to Arlington Heights that included the demolition of Arlington International Racecourse, a new report from Crain's Chicago Business suggests the Chicago Bears may not be going anywhere after all.

According to Greg Hinz of Crain's, multiple sources in government and close to the Bears have said that talks of building in downtown Chicago are not merely a plan to achieve better tax terms in Arlington Heights, but are now a sincere goal.

Hinz said that in plans that could go public soon, the Bears will look to construct a new state-of-the-art domed stadium in the parking lot south of their current home of Soldier Field.

The new stadium would leave the city capable of not only hosting a Super Bowl, but an NCAA March Madness Final Four and other major year-round events, Hinz said.

Hinz reports that the stadium would be financed thanks to a bonding clause in the law that governs the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. To ease possible difficulties with building on the lakefront, Hinz suggests that Soldier Field would be converted to public parks and athletic fields.

After months of appearing like a done deal, the Bears announced in June that the team was exploring other sites outside of Arlington Heights, which led to proposals from several suburbs and renewed talks with the city.

Earlier this week at a hearing on a dispute between the Bears and surrounding school districts in Arlington Heights, it was revealed that the two sides remain $100 million apart in valuations of the site.

Hinz also cites two other factors in the shift within the organization: a warmer relationship with Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration, and desires from Kevin Warren differing from his predecessor Ted Phillips.

While Phillips was known for a suburban focus that is reflected by the team's headquarters in Lake Forest, Hinz reports that Warren appears much more willing to keep the team in Chicago, owing to his background in getting a domed downtown stadium in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Vikings during his time there.

According to Hinz, the clause in the ISFA that the Bears are eyeing for funding is also seen as an opportunity by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who is reported to be exploring a South Loop stadium for the Chicago White Sox.

Hinz reports that the plan for a south lakefront stadium is also likely to face fierce opposition from Friends of the Parks, an advocacy group that previously sued to block the Lucas Museum on the lakefront, which was eventually built in Los Angeles ahead of a likely lengthy court battle in Chicago.

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