Architect offers alternative redesign of Soldier Field amid Bears stadium skepticism

Architect offers alternative redesign of Soldier Field amid Bears stadium skepticism originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Recently, the Chicago Bears' top brass presented their proposal for a new stadium next to Soldier Field, along with an entire lakefront redesign.

Their plan recently hit a financial hitch, on account of their request for public funding. Amid the controversy, architect Dirk Lohan --- who was the responsible mind for the 2003 Soldier Field renovations --- shared his idea on LinkedIn for a redesign of the Bears' current stadium.

In his redesign, Lohan pictures a "translucent lightweight domed roof, 20,000 additional spectator seats, and new amenities including dining and an interactive Bears Museum" as additions to Soldier Field.

Lohan's idea to recreate Soldier Field gives the Bears the benefit of being able to host outside events such as the FIFA World Cup, NCAA March Madness Tournament, concerts, etc. year-round. As the architect put it, the plan "would be far less expensive than building a new stadium from the ground up."

Here are the images he shared, courtesy of Lohan Architecture.

The team revealed plans last week to contribute just over $2 billion to build a publicly-owned stadium in the Burnham Harbor area while turning Soldier Field into a new open space.

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 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.

When you subtract the $2 billion from the Bears and a potential $300 million from the NFL, it leaves $2.4 billion to be funded by taxpayers. The team will look towards a bond mechanism with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for $900 million of that public money. But that leaves $1.5 billion more to make up the difference.

According to the governor's press secretary, Chief of Staff Anne Caprara and Deputy Gov. Andy Manar met with the team to discuss their latest proposal, which was presented publicly for the first time last week.

Secretary Alex Gough said the office "appreciates the opportunity to discuss the Bears’ proposal and appreciates the organization for taking the time to discuss it," but had a blunt message for the team going forward.

"As the Governor has said, the current proposal is a non-starter for the state," Gough said in a statement to NBC Chicago. "In order to subsidize a brand new stadium for a privately owned sports team, the Governor would need to see a demonstrable and tangible benefit to the taxpayers of Illinois. The Governor’s office remains open to conversations with the Bears, lawmakers, and other stakeholders with the understanding that responsible fiscal stewardship of tax-payer dollars remains the foremost priority.”

This plan, while unique in its design and its ways, isn't much different from previous Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's idea to build a dome over Soldier Field. Then, her idea was motivated to keep the Bears in the city, versus Arlington Heights, where they had then intended to build their next stadium.

"My belief is that the best-case business scenario for them - having a great stadium, being truly in the best market for them in the country - is remaining at Soldier Field, working with us to modernize that stadium to meet their needs and to increase revenue opportunities, which I think are really boundless at Soldier Field," Lightfoot said in February 2023.

Back then, costs for a dome above Soldier Field were estimated to be somewhere in the range of $2.2 billion. While an expensive venture, that's a much more affordable option for the Bears than constructing a stadium they claim will cost around $4.7 billion.

Stay tuned, as the Bears have plenty of obstacles standing in their way to a new stadium.

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