Bears new venue plans to draw major acts



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Chicago Bears stadium update March 2024 Image: Soldier Field, Sea Cow, CC BY-SA 4.0

The new fixed-roof stadium the National Football League (NFL) team Chicago Bears hope to build just South of their residence – the Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois (US) – would give the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois a chance to tap into a sports tourism industry that produced a tax impact of $6.6 billion in 2021, a total that is expected to be even higher when the 2023 data is released later this Spring.

‘chicagobears.com’ stated that speaking to newsmen recently at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando (US), the Bears President and head honcho Kevin Warren expressed his disappointment that Chicago was not included in the ‘Sports Business Journal’s’ recent list of the top 25 sports business Cities in the United States based on attracting and hosting sporting events.

New York (US)-based the National Football League is a professional American football league that consists of 32 teams, divided equally between the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference.

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, US. The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference North Division.

The Soldier Field is a multipurpose stadium on the Near South Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Opened in 1924 and reconstructed in 2003, the stadium has served as the home of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) since 1971 as well as the Chicago Fire FC of the Major League Soccer (MLS) from 1998 to 2005 and since 2020. It also regularly hosts the stadium concerts and other large crowd events. The stadium has a football capacity of 62,500, making it the second-smallest stadium in the NFL. The Soldier Field is also the oldest stadium established in both the NFL and the MLS.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The MLS is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York.

‘chicagobears.com’ stated that Warren noted that the smaller nearby Cities Indianapolis and Minneapolis were ranked fifth and 12th, respectively, and Milwaukee and Detroit were listed among “ones to watch”. Chicago and Washington, D.C., were the only top 15 markets in the United States which was not included.

Noted Warren, “For Chicago to not have been on that list is a major concern. To think Chicago, with this massive background, all the professional sports teams that we have, the beautiful landscape, the topography, all those things involved, known for an incredible sports City, for us not to be on that list … those are the things from a business standpoint that concern me.”

A fixed-roof stadium would allow Chicago to host major events throughout the year.

Added Warren, “It will put us in a position to bid for a Super Bowl – hopefully we’re blessed to host a Super Bowl – [and] to bid for a Final Four. I mean, you look what is going on now these last couple of weeks with March Madness, the Big Ten (the oldest Division I collegiate athletic Conference in the United States) events, the College Football Playoff events, concerts, and all the other things … When you think about Chicago, how powerful that City is, to think it has never hosted a Final Four, has never hosted a Super Bowl – and until we get a fixed-roof stadium, it will not host it.”

The Super Bowl is the annual league championship game of the National Football League (NFL) of the United States. It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game. Since 2022, the game has been played on the second Sunday in February.

The March Madness refers to that time of the year (usually mid-March through the beginning of April) when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments are held.

Indianapolis (US)-based the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletics among about 1,100 schools in the United States, and one in Canada. It also organizes the athletic programs of the colleges and helps over 500,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports.

Irving (US)-based the College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason knockout invitational tournament to determine a national champion for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football competition in the United States.

In a statement sent to the media earlier in the month of March, Warren revealed that the Bears are committing over $2 billion to build a stadium that will not only be capable of hosting mega events 12 months a year but also will increase the green space and boost the economy, create jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Informed Warren, “One of the things I have tried to explore is to really find another private investment in the City of Chicago over $2 billion. I have not been able to do it. I have even tried to explore a private investment in the City of Chicago over $1 billion. I have not been able to do it. So, when you have an opportunity to have an investment over $2 billion and also with the support of the National Football League, it is really special and unique.”

Warren believes that the Bears and the City deserve a state-of-the-art enclosed stadium on the lakefront.

Maintained Warren, “This also provides us a great opportunity to decide who we want to be not only in Chicago but in the Chicagoland area [and] the State of Illinois. We are an incredible City, not only in beauty, but this is an excellent opportunity from a business standpoint for us to be able to come together and pull together. Our owners have committed to [making] over a $2 billion investment into the City of Chicago in a building that will add so many public benefits. One, it will put people to work, which we need. Two, it creates an opportunity for our Chicagoans to come together to celebrate not only the Chicago Bears but the other massive and major mega sports events.”

Warren revealed that the Bears are close to unveiling their plans for a new stadium – “Our plan is here in the not-too-distant future to be able to get together and lay out a plan, not only with renderings but video, a financial plan, so we can display it to the public. We are working on that here and we know that from a timing standpoint, it is important for us to finish it, so we have been working diligently every day to finalize that. We are getting close to having a plan ready to take public.”

‘chicagobears.com’ further stated that the Bears’ sense of urgency is related in large part due to the escalation of costs. Warren told the reporters that the cost of building a stadium will increase $150-200 million every year. He also revealed that based on his experience with the construction of the 73,000-capacity U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota when he worked for the NFL team Minnesota Vikings.

Averred Warren, “The moment we put a shovel in the ground, we can be open in 36 months.”

Warren is aware of the contentious relationship the Bears have had at times with the City and the Chicago Park District. But he’s not worried about that still being an issue – “I believe in people, I believe in relationships. And even since I have been able to be here and spend time with the individuals at the Soldier Field, individuals at the park district, individuals in the City of Chicago, I have only been welcomed. We have had a great relationship. And I think people have seen that. They feel it. When you have a common goal that people can focus on and come together, I am confident that we will have a positive relationship as we go forward. One of the things I promised myself when I started on April 17th of last year, I was going to understand and appreciate and embrace the history of the Chicago Bears and all the relationships. But any tension or negativity, I was not going to take it forward.”

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