Rahm Says Soldier Field Expansion Needs to “Make Sense”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is cautioning people not to get ahead of themselves when it comes to the expansion of Soldier Field.

The Chicago Park District and Emanuel are exploring ways to expand Soldier Field by 5,000 seats, but on Wednesday, the mayor said it's too early to talk about how to pay for it.

"Before you get to how you pay for something, I'm asking a more fundamental question. Does it make sense?" Emanuel said at a news conference.

"If it does make sense, I didn't say how we were going to finance it, that's a whole other question. We're not going to get there yet because there's a primary question before you get to that."

Emanuel says events like international soccer games, and outdoor NHL and college hockey games weren't factored into the equation when the stadium was last renovated.

"We never envisioned that, and it's a clear revenue generator for the city and for the Park District," Emanuel said.

Adding extra seats to the top ring of the stadium is one way an expansion could occur.

Emanuel has spoken to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the past about the possibility of Chicago hosting a Super Bowl, which would need a minimum of 70,000 seats.

Ald. Scott Waugespack (32nd) doesn't think that will happen.

"That's a pretty far stretch for the people at the NFL who would have to look at this. They're not just going to look at the seating capacity, they're going to look at a lot of other factors," Waugespack said.

Other alderman are also interested, but at the same time, cautious.

"The details will awfully important to me. If it involves any sort of taxpayer-funded subsidy, that's probably where you'd lose my support," 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly said.

Soldier Field currently has a capacity of 61,500 for football and 63,500 for other events.

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