What Chicago Bears CEO Kevin Warren said about a lakefront stadium and timeline at the NFL Owners Meetings

The future of the Chicago Bears franchise is in Kevin Warren's hands.

The Bears' CEO was at the NFL owners meetings this week in Orlando, and held court at a round table where the media asked him questions for about 40 minutes.

Here's what Warren said about the Bears' new stadium efforts, including why the Bears are hoping to break ground as soon as the end of this year.

‘The focus now has to be on Chicago’

It was confirmed earlier in March, but Warren doubled down in Orlando.

The Bears are moving forward with a new stadium at the Museum Campus. Warren said the franchise is starting to divert all its energy into that downtown stadium.

On March 11, FOX 32 reported that a source close to the stadium project said that the Bears are investing over $2 billion in private money into a "publicly owned domed stadium and park space."

"Right now we're putting our energy to downtown Chicago, to the museum campus, just from an energy and resource standpoint," Warren said. "We still own the land. We're the largest landowner. We'll stay in communication with Arlington Heights, but the focus now has to be on Chicago to give us the best opportunity for success."

On breaking ground by year's end

Warren said the Bears' plan for a downtown stadium will become public "sometime in the near future."

Why so soon? Because Warren 

"This is the year that we have to pull together and, collectively across the state and across the city and the county, to do everything we possibly can in a manner that makes sense, not being reckless, but in a manner that makes sense to pull together," Warren said. "Then you add being election year on top of it. So, there, there are a lot of issues and there are always a lot of issues."

Those issues are something Warren is aware of from his time overseeing the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

"Every one of these development projects has complications," Warren said. "But I'm one of those individuals that I look at it as, not only hurdles, but really opportunities and just to think how special it would be to pull together."

Not only will this create a new look for a Bears franchise, but Warren stressed its importance for Chicago to have a domed stadium.

This stadium can host Super Bowls, Final Fours and more major sporting events that wouldn't be possible without a dome. Warren stressed the power of having Chicago host these events.

"We need to create jobs," Warren said. "We need to create a stronger tax base. We need to pull together and some of the things that this would provide for our young men and women here in the city of Chicago, not only from a work standpoint, but even to have an environment to be able to play at our building is really special."


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Why Warren wants to move quickly by year's end

Is it ambitious to try and break ground by year's end? Perhaps, but Warren has a reason for eying that time frame.

It's going to get more costly.

"The biggest concern that I have right now, just with the escalation of cost, and not only in supplies and you look at the financial markets," Warren said. "I watch the financial markets as much as I watch the sports markets and just cost and infrastructure and those things are uncertain."

Warren said the Bears are on top of how much more expensive it becomes, and that number isn't rising by just a few dollars at a time.

Think by the millions.

"We at least have some certainty now, and we've even received information back that every year that we don't finalize the stadium, that the cost will go up anywhere between 150 to $200 million," Warren said. "These are real dollars. And so that's one of the reasons why I am focused of having a plan, being diligent, us working together and focusing on the importance of like the time is now that we need to really pull together."

This also gives the Bears a chance to establish their identity beyond the football side of the franchise.

"I think this also provides us a great opportunity to decide kind of who we want to be," Warren said. "Not only in Chicago, but in the Chicagoland area, but in the state of Illinois."

What Warren wants to know about the football side

Warren won't be the one turning in the NFL Draft cards in April, but he does want to know a few things about any potential Chicago Bears draftee.

"The thing that's most important for me, on any of our players but especially on potentially top draft picks, is do you love football, the game of football?" Warren said. "Where's your heart? Are you passionate? Do you want to be a champion? Are you willing to do things the right way?"

Those guidelines are what the Bears will follow come NFL Draft time, which is in about a month in Detroit.

Above all, Warren wanted to echo one specific sentiment.

"Chicago is a very special place," Warren said.


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