How Kansas City paints a picture of what is to come for the Chicago Bears stadium plans

CHICAGO — Publicly funding sports stadiums is a contentious issue, and a thorny one for politicians who have to prioritize the use of taxes for the public good. The latest team to ask for public money in such a venture is the Chicago Bears, and a recent example from another midwestern city may tell where public sentiment stands on stadium funding.

The Bears are requesting around $2.3 billion in public money for a proposed $4.6 billion stadium project, while another team in town — The White Sox — is also on the hunt for public financing of a new ballpark.

The situation playing out with the Bears and White Sox is similar to the one that played out earlier this month in Kansas City.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Bears unveil new lakefront stadium plans at Soldier Field, a day before crucial NFL Draft

In a sales tax measure sent to the polls that would have helped fund a new downtown baseball stadium for the Royals, along with major renovations for the Chief’s Arrowhead stadium, voters handily struck it down, with 58% of those who hit the polls voting against the measure.

“One lesson that could be learned from the last few years is — Stadium deals and taxpayers putting money forward for stadium deals, not particularly popular around the country,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “Take note that the winner of the Super Bowl this year, the team went out to get a stadium financed by the public, and it was rejected by the public in a place where the Super Bowl champions reside.

“If the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs can’t get the people of their area to authorize the building of a new stadium, I don’t really think the people of Chicago, or across Illinois, feel any different.”

In the State of Illinois, such tax measures are not put to a vote, but former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said the use of public money should be one decided by the voters.

“Kansas City voters had good common sense,” Quinn said. “Give us a chance to vote at the ballot box on whether this billion-dollar boondoggle should happen … This will end up Brandon’s boondoggle.”

At 670 The Score, Chicago’s top sports talk radio station, host Dan Bernstein said the Kansas City situation should be a warning to Chicago politicians.

“I hope it’s predictive and I certainly understand that we have a governor at this moment with much higher political aspirations, who has a pretty good sense of the direction of the winds right now,” Bernstein said.

In a recent study from the Journal of Economic Surveys, an analysis of 130 stadium projects found that the fiscal returns for residents are far smaller than the corresponding public expenditure.

“The money ends up making billionaires richer at the expense of people who actually need these taxpayer dollars for so many things that are much more important,” Bernstein said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to WGN-TV.