No funding yet for Bears’ new stadium


New Bears stadium with another hurdle Image: Chicago Bears and MANICA

The NFL’s Chicago Bears have been left disappointed after Illinois lawmakers failed to set aside any funding in the latest budget to help pay for their new stadium.

The team’s owners had hoped to secure public funding in May so they could start initial construction this fall.

The Illinois state budget plan includes hundreds of millions promised to education, migrant relief, medical debt and tax write-offs for special circumstances. But nothing for the Bears.

NBC Chicago said the Bears are, however, optimistic about continued meetings with elected officials and state legislators.

The Bears said in a statement to NBC Chicago, “We continue to have productive conversations since we unveiled our vision to invest more than $2 billion of private money to a new, publicly owned enclosed stadium which will create 43,000 construction jobs and more than 4,000 permanent jobs.

“We look forward to continuing to meet with elected officials, community leaders, business leaders, residents and fans to collaborate on ways to make the massive economic development project for Illinois a reality.”

The Bears currently play at the 62,500-capacity Soldier Field, a multipurpose stadium on the Near South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Opened in 1924 and reconstructed in 2003, the stadium has served as the home of the Chicago Bears since 1971.

In April the Bears unveiled their plans to build a new state-of-the-art fixed-roof stadium along Chicago’s lakefront. They said they were aiming to break ground in the summer of 2025, with a planned grand opening in the Summer of 2028.

The proposal includes a contemporary architectural design which complements the existing architecture featuring an enclosed, fixed roof, spectacular views of Chicago’s skyline and lakefront, intimate seating for unparalleled sight lines and open spaces for congregating.

The stadium would be capable of hosting large-scale sporting events year-round, including Super Bowls (the annual league championship game of the NFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Fours as well as the world’s most prominent entertainment acts.

Those spectacles would unlock economic benefits for a variety of sectors within Chicago and the region, evidenced in part by the estimated $6.6 billion in direct fiscal tax impact produced nationwide in 2021 by the sports tourism sector of the economy.

During the stadium proposal presentation President/CEO Kevin Warren said he was hopeful of getting something done on funding as quickly as possible.

Bears COO and executive vice president of stadium development Karen Murphy said in the presentation that the team expects the entire stadium project to cost $4.7 billion: $3.2 billion for the stadium itself and just over $300 million for the infrastructure required to open it, then $1.2 billion for two other phases of development.

In March, the team confirmed it would contribute $2 billion dollars to fund the majority of the project.

NCB further stated that that leaves a $900 million gap for the stadium financing itself. The Bears plan has them looking to a bond mechanism in the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority program to make up the difference.

The Bears said a 2% hotel tax that is already in place should be able to make up the $900 million they need from public funds.

It’s still not clear where some of the funding will come from. Additionally, the Bears indicated they could potentially look for city money as well as state and federal dollars.

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