Chicago Bears pitch $2 billion for a publicly owned stadium on the lakefront to replace Soldier Field

The Chicago Bears are prepared to provide $2 billion in private funding for a new publicly owned enclosed stadium and park space in the city, the team confirmed Monday.

The lakefront site would replace Soldier Field and increase open space on the museum campus by 20%, and provide a prime location to host the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and year-round community events, a source familiar with the deal said.

A poll showed that 80% of Chicagoans support a museum campus location, and 77% want to keep the team in the city, the source said.

The poll of 500 registered voters by McGuire Research also found 60% of Chicagoans support using public money for a publicly owned stadium.

As proposed, the new stadium would be in the area of Waldron Drive, just south of the Bears’ current home at Soldier Field. The project would include open plazas, paths and landscaping, with access to the lakefront, and could include saving the Soldier Field colonnade in honor of veterans.

Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren issued a statement that the team is proud to contribute more than $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open space.

“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,” Warren said. “We look forward to sharing more information when our plans are finalized.”

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jack Lavin called the proposal “impressive and exciting.”

“This investment will enhance our reputation as a world-class city and tourist and convention destination,” Lavin said. “And it will encourage more investment.”

A city ordinance generally prohibits private development on the lakefront. The nonprofit group Friends of the Parks filed suit and defeated a previous plan by Star Wars creator George Lucas to build a museum south of Soldier Field. The team is expected to meet with the group soon to share its plans.

The group issued a statement on Friday, before the latest news, cautioning against a rush to judgment on the issue.

“Right now, our main reaction is frustration at the apparent urgency for decisions to be made,” Interim Executive Director Gin Kilgore wrote. “Discussions about projects as impactful as new stadiums that will require significant public investment and that will profoundly affect the literal and figurative landscape of Chicago and our neighborhoods should not be rushed.”

More than a year ago, the Bears spent $197 million to buy the former Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, with plans to build a $2 billion domed stadium and surrounding development there.

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Those plans have stalled as team officials have recoiled from increased property taxes and have been unable to reach an agreement with local school districts. Economists generally warn against publicly financed stadiums as a bad investment, and Chicago still is on the hook to pay off bonds for the current Chicago White Sox stadium and the renovated Soldier Field.

Recently, the team has begun working with the city of Chicago on the lakefront site. The Bears also have had conversations with the White Sox about seeking public loans to help build new stadiums for each team.