Should Chicago Dome Soldier Field?

From NBC, Chicago looks to keep the Bears playing at Soldier Field, with the team currently considering a new stadium outside the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has unveiled three potential renovation plans for the iconic stadium, including expanded seat options and the possible addition of a dome.

Soldier Field, part of Chicago’s 57-acre iconic Museum Campus that’s also home to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum, is one of the smallest National Football League stadiums in the country.

And while the city has said that it intends to fight to keep the Bears at Soldier Field, the Bears continue to moved forward in purchasing the site of the former Arlington Rack Track, telling the Daily Herald earlier this month that that “the only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park.”

“Not surprisingly, we are doing what we believe is making a compelling case for the Chicago Bears to stay in Chicago. They want a tier one stadium environment to maximize revenues, and we agree that we are going to keep making the case to the Bears, the NFL and public that a revitalized Soldier Field makes the most economic sense for that storied franchise,” Lightfoot said during an address Monday.

Lightfoot said that while the renovations will benefit the historic venue, regardless of the team’s decision to stay or go, it could save the team more than $1 billion when compared to the cost of building a new stadium.

“What’s also important Soldier Field remains a highly desired venue by many other sports activities, music and more,” she said. “It’s important to note that each of these scenarios will allow us to continue benefitting from Soldier Field regardless of whether or not the Bears choose to stay or go – and of course we hope that they choose to stay. But should Bears choose to stay in our city, Soldier Field will be a top 10 tier stadium with a number of new features. But should they choose to leave, Soldier Field will continue to be a premier multipurpose venue that is able to host an array of important and exciting events.”

The proposal includes the idea of building a dome over Soldier Field so it could be used year-round, along with removing Burnham Harbor and replacing it with parking “floating pavilions.” Giving the Bears the opportunity to possibly sell naming rights to the stadium was also floated.

Here’s a look at the three proposals unveiled Monday in the city:

Option 1

Fully enclose the stadium by rebuilding both endzones with columns that can support a dome structure.  

Option 2

Rebuild both endzones with columns to make the stadium dome ready. 

Options 3

Modify Soldier Field to be a multi-purpose stadium better suited for soccer while improving its flexibility to accommodate major concerts and a range of events. 

The mayor emphasized that options one and two “make Soldier Field a top tier NFL stadium with tremendous opportunity for the Bears to fulfill their vision.”

“All options include major programmatic changes and concourse space improvements and, most importantly, preserve historical components of Soldier Field including the colonnades,” the city said.

The estimated costs for each option have not been finalized yet, but the city said they are expected to range between $900 million and $2.2 billion.

The city also plans to provide new amenities to the stadium, including:

  • Expand seating from 61,500 seats up to 70,000 total seats including additional fan activation areas. 
  • Increase the number of traditional suites from 133 to 140. 
  • Add six new major club and experiential areas. 
  • Quadruple the food and beverage square footage from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet. 
  • Add secondary club and activation areas to as many as 20. 
  • Expand the opportunity for major sponsorships and naming rights. 
  • Create more flexible event space and multi-purpose venues including up to four venues with capacity ranging from 5,000 to 60,000 or more.  

“I am excited to share these proposals for Soldier Field,” Richard S. Price, executive chairman of Mesirow who chaired the Working Group that generated the analysis and recommendations for Museum Campus unveiled by the city earlier this year, said in a statement. “Any of these options has enormous potential to spur economic growth for Chicago and contribute to making the Museum Campus a global, year-round destination.” 

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