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Bears Commit More Than $2 Billion to Domed Stadium in Chicago

The Chicago Bears’ quest for a new stadium has taken another turn. The team has scrapped its plans to build facilities in the suburbs and plans to stay in the city at a new domed lakefront venue immediately south of Soldier Field, according to multiple reports.

The domed stadium will not only spare fans who are used to braving the harsh wind and cold at games, but it will also allow the team to host major events throughout the year. A survey conducted by the team showed that fans overwhelmingly supported a domed stadium.

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“The Chicago Bears are proud to contribute over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public to enjoy in the City of Chicago,” the team said in a statement to Sportico. “The future stadium of the Chicago Bears will bring a transformative opportunity to our region—boosting the economy, creating jobs, facilitating mega events and generating millions in tax revenue. We look forward to sharing more information when our plans are finalized.”

The public’s contribution to this new stadium project is not known.

Soldier Field’s current capacity of 61,500 makes it the smallest stadium in the NFL. The original stadium opened in 1924, and it underwent a renovation more than 20 years ago that basically rebuilt the entire venue at a cost of $630 million. The Bears played the 2002 season on the University of Illinois campus during the construction.

Despite the renovated building, the Bears were still left outside of the league’s top earners, and the team’s underperforming business in the largest market with only one NFL team has been a source of frustration for other NFL owners. The Bears had estimated revenue of $561 million during the 2022 season, which ranked 13th in Sportico’s NFL team valuations. Its $6 billion value was eighth, due to the potential and money in the Chicago market.

The Bears are expected to stay in Soldier Field until the new stadium is ready, and the current lease runs through 2033.

The Bears had previously focused on building a new stadium in Arlington Heights, a northwest suburb of Chicago. In 2021, the team signed a purchase agreement to buy a 326-acre racetrack from Churchill Downs for $197 million that would serve as the site for a new stadium and mixed-use development. However, the high property tax rates for the site made the Bears pause, and the team started to explore other stadium options.

Other Chicago suburbs, including Waukegan, Naperville and Aurora, pitched the Bears on moving there, and the team reconsidered staying within the city, including near its current home by Lake Michigan.

The Bears hired former Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in early 2023 to be their CEO with one of his main objectives to solve the stadium issue. In June, Warren and Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson met to discuss the issue and released a joint statement after.

“Today we met and discussed our shared values and commitment to the city of Chicago, the importance of deep roots and the need for equitable community investment throughout the city,” the statement read. “We are both committed to the idea that the city and its major civic institutions must grow and evolve together to meet the needs of the future. We look forward to continuing the dialogue around these shared values.”

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