The Chicago Bears are determined upon their course now more than ever. For years they’ve battled the Chicago Park District over ways to improve Soldier Field. Always with little success. It was felt that this constantly cost the organization chances to improve their revenue. After another failure a few months ago to establish a sportsbook in the stadium, the Bears had enough. They placed a bid to purchase the 326-acre property of Arlington Racecourse International. A bid that proved successful.
Based on all the information available, it feels like the writing is on the wall at this point. The city will do what it can to prevent the team from leaving before the end of their lease in 2033 but chances are they won’t be able to hold out for too long. Meanwhile, expectations are once the logistics are situated the organization will begin the process of establishing a new stadium in Arlington Heights. That leaves one big question.
How will the Bears fund such a venture?
While the McCaskeys own one of the most valuable franchises in the NFL, they aren’t the richest owners by comparison to others. They will fund part of the project themselves, but it is a safe assumption they will need considerable help to get this thing off the ground. What sort of options do they have?
Don’t expect any help from public funding. Debts are still being paid for the last renovation to Soldier Field. So if this is going to happen, the Bears must get creative. Longtime Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Pearson provided details via Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog.
“They can link up with a private developer to create retail and even residential opportunities. The NFL has a loan program for new stadiums and the Bears, as a founding member of the league, would likely get favorable terms. In addition, a domed stadium also would provide new year-round opportunities for revenue. And the team wouldn’t have to split some of its revenues with the Chicago Park District, its current leaseholder, and would be able to sell naming rights. Then add the prospect of a sportsbook on game days, which is something the Bears clearly want and haven’t been able to get.”
The point of this explanation is clear. The Bears are playing the long game. While the cost to build the new stadium will be immense, the belief is the moneymaking opportunities it could open up would pay off those debts and then some in the long run.
Chicago Bears stadium question comes down to ambition
What nobody knows right now is exactly the sort of new building they want. There is a wide range of possibilities. When thinking about these things, most people immediately look to state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium, the brand new home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Rams. A building that cost $5.5 billion to make. It is a safe assumption that the Bears won’t be thinking that aggressively.
Instead, they might be looking more towards U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota or Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Both buildings have received rave reviews and came at a more modest cost of $1.061 and $1.9 billion respectively. Much of this may come down to capacity. Are the Chicago Bears looking for a massive uptick in seating? Soldier Field had a 61,500 capacity. They could look to go for 90,000 or even 100,000. That would increase the cost.
More likely is they seek something in the 70,000 range.
Knowing this ownership and the fact they won’t share the building with another team? One can safely guess this new stadium will cost somewhere in the $1-2 billion range. No doubt they’ll be talking with architects and stadium financing experts about it for many months to come. Here is hoping they get good advice and provide a building Bears fans can be proud of.