Chicago Bears unveil new lakefront stadium plans

The Chicago Bears announced plans for their new domed stadium along the lakefront Wednesday, one day before kicking off the NFL Draft with the top overall pick.

Team officials, along with city and state stakeholders, showed off new renderings for the domed stadium at a noon press conference.

The Bears projected the stadium will cost $3.225 billion. Over $2 billion in funding would come from the Bears and the NFL. The remaining 28% of costs, or $900 million, would come from a proposed Illinois Sports Facilities Authority bond funding.

Designed to host global sporting events as well as high-profile entertainment acts, the enclosed stadium complex will also incorporate 14 acres of green spaces and athletic fields with access to the lakefront for families and fans.

"This Museum Campus is the most attractive footprint in the world," Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said "We have a beautiful lake you can swim in. We have beaches, the architecture downtown. All of those different things are what make Chicago special."

The new design will prominently feature Soldier Field's historic colonnades. The space will be available year-round for recreational and community events, the Bears announced.

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The Chicago Bears have released renderings of a publicly-owned multipurpose stadium that could be located just south of Solider Field. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson praised the leadership of Warren in keeping the Bears in the city.

"This project will result in no new taxes on the residents of Chicago," Johnson said. "This project actually puts Chicagoans to work. The development proposed today will provide thousands of jobs, both temporary and permanent ones, to people who live in every section of the city."

The Bears projected the new stadium would bring Chicago $36 million in annual tax revenue and roughly $15 million every year for the state.

"We share Mayor Johnson’s priority of bringing a modern stadium that creates community benefits to our city," said Warren. "We are not just building a stadium; through our partnership with the mayor, the park district, and the state, we will create a public asset that strengthens Chicago. We can support and host educational opportunities with Chicago Public Schools and increase our already strong support for social services for children and families in need."

According to economic forecasting firm HR&A, the stadium and Museum Campus infrastructure improvements will generate:

  • $4.2 billion of direct capital investment, resulting in 43,000 regional construction jobs.
  • Over $8 billion in economic impact, including $3.5 billion in wages.
  • 2,300 Chicago jobs annually and 4,200 regionally post-construction.
  • Based on new employment, $248 million in annual economic impact for Chicago and $456 million for the region.
  • $92 million in annual wages for Chicago and $170 million for the region.

You can find a breakdown on the Burnham Park Project and Museum Campus' economic benefits HERE or below:

What about Arlington Heights?

The new stadium announcement came after the team said earlier this year that it was looking to build a new stadium on the lakefront instead of the proposed Arlington Heights location due to rising development costs and improved relations with city leaders.

Last year, the Bears paid $197 million for the former Arlington Heights racetrack. It's 326 acres and was billed as easily accessible by public transportation and centrally located. Crews began demolition shortly after. Analysts predicted a Bears entertainment district in the northwestern suburb could generate 48,000 jobs and rake in $9.4 million for the local economy.

The Bears and three local school districts have battled over property taxes since the property was sold.

Earlier this month, the team appealed its property tax bill in Arlington Heights, seeking a refund of 2023 taxes of $7.2 million for the site where the Bears proposed building a new stadium. 

Financing the stadium

The Bears said it will invest substantial private funds, totaling over $2 billion, to make the development a reality. The private contribution accounts for over 70 percent of the overall stadium cost. Additionally, the club said it will apply for a $300 million NFL loan as part of the private investment plan. 

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1987 with the aim of building stadiums for professional sports teams, is being proposed as the funding source for an additional $900 million toward the publicly owned stadium. The project finance proposal could be accomplished with the two-percent hotel tax used to back ISFA bonds, the club said. This would restructure existing ISFA debt and create new capacity by extending bonds for 40 years. 

The club said the extension would pay off existing debt, secure resources for the replacement stadium and create a liquidity reserve to cover any hotel tax shortfall.

Public infrastructure funds will be allocated to improve accessibility and traffic flow around the lakefront and Museum Campus year-round. The investments are planned to be implemented in three phases:

  • Phase One: Infrastructure required to open the stadium, totaling $325 million.
  • Phase Two: Infrastructure to maximize stadium and surrounding campus, totaling $510 million.
  • Phase Three: Optional infrastructure to enhance the campus, improve circulation, and maximize public economic benefits, totaling $665 million.