Whilst the last-place Bears play out the string in a meaningless house finale Sunday towards the division-leading Vikings, a developer hoping to stay the crew in Chicago is upping its recreation.
Landmark Building unveiled a video excursion Sunday of a “reimagined” Soldier Box, together with expanded seating, top class membership lounges, meals halls and an adjoining live performance venue, crowned by way of a dome to draw fair-weather soccer lovers and year-round guests.
The principle audience, alternatively, is a definite soccer crew referred to as “Da Bears,” whose long term comes to a plan to go out Soldier Box for a brand new stadium in Arlington Heights.
“This can be a proposal that we expect units a compelling case for a crew just like the Bears to wish to keep at Soldier Box,” mentioned Bob Dunn, president of Landmark Building.
The six-minute video, voiced by way of former Chicago information anchor Invoice Kurtis, is supposed to realize traction for the proposed $2.2 billion renovation of Soldier Box as an alternative choice to development a brand new stadium within the northwest suburbs. Preserving the Bears at Soldier Box may also lend a hand the reason for One Central, a proposed $3.8 billion mixed-used leisure and transit construction Landmark is hoping to construct above a 32-acre rail backyard close to the stadium and Museum Campus.
In September 2021, the Bears entered into a purchase order settlement to shop for Arlington World Racecourse from Churchill Downs for $197 million, with plans to increase the 326-acre website online into an leisure district anchored by way of a domed stadium. The crew mentioned it isn’t looking for taxpayer investment to construct the stadium itself, however will search for public help to increase the remainder of the $5 billion mission.
Whilst the deal to shop for the Arlington Heights belongings has but to near, the Bears are no longer available in the market for choice websites — together with a renovated Soldier Box.
“The one attainable mission the Chicago Bears are exploring for a brand new stadium construction is Arlington Park,” the crew mentioned in a observation Friday. “As a part of our mutual settlement with the vendor of that belongings, we don’t seem to be pursuing choice stadium offers or websites, together with renovations to Soldier Box, whilst we’re beneath contract.”
Based in Decatur, the Bears moved to Chicago in 1921 and performed at Wrigley Box for fifty years. In 1971, they shifted to Soldier Box, the place the Chicago Park District become their landlord. The Bears pay $6.48 million in line with 12 months beneath the present rent, which runs via 2033, however the crew can go out early by way of paying a penalty.
In 2003, Soldier Box underwent a $690 million renovation, which critics have likened to a flying saucer crash touchdown atop the unique Colosseum-like stadium. It stripped the 1924 development of its nationwide historical landmark designation, however stored the Bears in Chicago — no less than till now.
Taxpayers lined $432 million of the renovation mission, most commonly throughout the town’s resort tax. A good portion of the stability used to be funded by way of everlasting seat licenses, an more and more necessary software utilized by groups to construct or renovate a stadium. The Bears have not begun to mention what is going to occur to the 26,000 current PSL holders if the crew strikes to Arlington Heights.
Just about each and every stakeholder consents the 61,500-seat Soldier Box — the smallest within the NFL — is out of date.
“I feel maximum folks have had a large number of unfavorable reviews at Soldier Box,” Dunn mentioned. “It’s a development that’s poor by way of the entire measurables that we use in sports activities these days.”
A Wisconsin-based developer who has constructed quite a few NFL stadiums together with U.S. Financial institution Stadium in Minneapolis, Ford Box in Detroit and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Dunn additionally renovated the venerable Lambeau Box for the Bears’ archrivals, the Inexperienced Bay Packers. In July, he joined Lightfoot and Chicago trade leaders to present preliminary designs for a possible domed renovation of Soldier Box.
Six months later, Landmark has developed the imaginative and prescient right into a extra concrete plan and a slickly produced video. The proposal contains increasing seating as much as 70,000, expanding the selection of personal suites from 133 to 140, including six golf equipment and experiential spaces, and quadrupling meals and beverage house.
An adjoining outside live performance venue would use the stadium’s infrastructure, with a rotating northern wall offering inner get admission to.
The important thing characteristic is a large dome atop the flying saucer, which is supported by way of 4 finish zone columns. The end result places an expanded Soldier Box and facilities beneath glass for year-round use.
The town extensively reiterated its strengthen for Dunn’s newest imaginative and prescient for Soldier Box, and the challenge to stay the Bears.
“Mayor Lightfoot has been vocal in regards to the wish to reimagine the enjoy at Soldier Box,” Cesar Rodriguez, spokesman for the mayor’s workplace, mentioned in a observation. “The Town nonetheless believes that Soldier Box is the most efficient house for the Chicago Bears and continues to interact with group companions and contributors of the Museum Campus Running Workforce to discover the way forward for the stadium.”
Whilst Dunn declined to provide a price projection, he mentioned the prior to now disclosed $2.2 billion renovation estimate stays within the ballpark. Using 70% of the infrastructure already in position, the renovation saves as much as $1.5 billion over development a related stadium from scratch, he mentioned.
As to who would foot the invoice, Dunn pointed to the Bears because the perhaps applicants.
“Stadiums these days are predominantly funded by way of groups,” he mentioned. “The groups in reality do endure a vital burden of the prices of establishing stadiums.”
A minimum of one business skilled used to be skeptical a domed Soldier Box can be sufficient to stay the Bears from heading to greener pastures in Arlington Heights.
Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports activities advertising and marketing marketing consultant, likened the over-the-top renovation plan to a desperation “Hail Mary” go by way of town and Landmark. The most important impediment, he mentioned, is that the Bears would nonetheless neither personal nor keep watch over Soldier Box, which is antithetical to fashionable sports activities stadium economics.
“Get started from scratch, construct what you wish to have, finance it the way in which you wish to have and keep watch over it eternally,” Ganis mentioned.
On the similar time, Ganis mentioned a extra modest redevelopment of Soldier Box may no longer stay the Bears, however may just flip the century-old stadium into a vital asset for town alongside the lakefront and Museum Campus, used for football, concert events and public occasions.
Dunn mentioned the point of interest now’s to head large and stay the Bears as an anchor tenant. If that fails, Plan B can be a downsized renovation of Soldier Box incorporating most of the similar core parts.
“We do have a imaginative and prescient for an alternate plan, if the Bears don’t seem to be a part of the way forward for Soldier Box,” Dunn mentioned. “We expect there’s a compelling case that may be made in regards to the stadium’s long term, despite the fact that the crew have been to go away.”
Whilst town has so much at stake with the Bears resolution, Dunn has some pores and skin within the recreation as neatly. His proposed One Central construction, together with an leisure district, residential constructions and a transit hub, can be positioned simply west of Soldier Box, throughout Jean Baptiste Level DuSable Lake Shore Power.
A public/personal partnership licensed by way of lawmakers in 2019, Landmark plans to fund the $3.8 billion first segment of construction, with the state purchasing it again for $6.5 billion over two decades. The mission doesn’t get off the bottom, alternatively, till the state authorizes the investment. Dunn mentioned the state will habits its personal feasibility find out about this 12 months.
One Central, which already lost out as a location for the proposed Chicago on line casino, may just in all probability ill-afford to look the Bears depart the town, and Soldier Box fall into disuse.
Dunn mentioned One Central stays viable — whether or not the Bears play at Soldier Box or no longer.
“Soldier Box goes to have a long term that’s other from its previous. We see a possibility there, without reference to who the tenants are,” Dunn mentioned. “However One Central isn’t depending on the way forward for Soldier Box.”