Can Lightfoot's proposed dome plus thousands of new seats keep the Bears from moving to the suburbs?
(CHICAGO) With a capacity of just 61,500, Soldier Field is the littlest stadium in the NFL, according to stadiumsofprofootball.com.
In September 2021, the Chicago Bears announced an agreement to buy the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse, where they could house a much bigger stadium with newer amenities than Soldier Field offers.
Since that announcement, the city of Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have been clear in their hopes of keeping the Bears in Chicago.
And now, Lightfoot has unveiled plans to upgrade the current stadium with several new options, including a fully enclosable dome. The cost of the renovations ranges from $900 million to $2.2 billion.
“An improved Soldier Field will deliver a world-class visitor experience,” said Mayor Lightfoot in a press release. “Furthermore, any of these proposed renovations will allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come, as these changes will allow us to keep bringing sports, music and other exciting events to our city.”
The renderings look pretty good
Here are the artist's renderings of what the updated stadium would look like. See for yourself if you like the look.
The dome project would be led by Bob Dunn, president of Landmark Development. He has also developed stadiums for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
The plans modernize the stadium around the existing structure.
The dome idea is still up in the air
A fully enclosable dome is one of the options and has not been decided on yet.
The three options include:
- Fully enclose the stadium by rebuilding the end zones with columns to support a dome.
- Rebuild the endzones to make the stadium dome-ready.
- No dome. Modify the stadium to become a multi-purpose stadium better suited for soccer, major concerts, and other events.
The upgrades also include expanding seating capacity from 61,500 seats to 70,000.
What do the Bears think of the proposed changes?
The Chicago Bears seemed unmoved by Chicago's plans to renovate Soldier Field when they re-released their former statement,
"The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract."
We will have to wait and see if the proposed changes can keep the Bears from leaving for the suburbs.
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