Suburban mayor endorses Chicago Bears' lakefront stadium proposal

The Chicago Bears received a surprising vote of support Tuesday for their plan to build a domed stadium on the lakefront

It comes from a powerful suburban mayor who doubles as a state lawmaker.

Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said he believes the Bears belong in Chicago even if it means taxpayers help foot the bill. 

"I think if we miss out on this in the near future it’s a tremendous missed opportunity for the City of Chicago," said Stephens.

Stephens voiced support for the Bears’ plan to use a combination of public subsidies and $2 billion of the Bears' money to build a huge new domed stadium on the lakefront.

"I think it lights up that lakefront from McCormick Place down to the Obama library," said Stephens. "And I think it would be something really, really exciting for Chicago."

That proposal got a chilly reception when the Bears went down to Springfield to pitch it a couple of weeks ago. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the leaders of both the Illinois House and Senate are questioning the use of public tax dollars to help an NFL team with billions of dollars.

The Bears want to extend the two percent downtown hotel tax in order to pay for part of the project, as well as hundreds of millions more for infrastructure improvements.

Stephens pointed to a number of stadium and entertainment projects in Rosemont that, while on a smaller scale, have used public funding to return a profit. 

"I believe these are community investments. It’s not so much of a handout. And these things, I think pay dividends. In the small community I represent, Rosemont, we have made several investments on a much smaller scale that have really paid off for us," said Stephens.

Stephens, who, in addition to being Mayor of Rosemont is also the Assistant Republican House Minority Leader in Springfield, said the state has been giving out big tax breaks to other large and wealthy companies. That includes more than $800 million approved for Rivian in downstate Normal.

Stephens said he believes lawmakers could be convinced to vote for a Bears stadium with some political deal-making. 

"I think it all depends on the way and manner it’s proposed. Meaning, is it going to be tacked on with other issues that can bring others to the table, could be downstaters with issues that matter to them," said Stephens.