Bears Stadium

George McCaskey explains where Bears' stadium plan stands after lakefront pivot

The Bears chairman approves of the decision to pivot from Arlington Park to the lakefront

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ORLANDO -- When Bears chairman George McCaskey purchased the 326-acre Arlington Park property for nearly $200 million, he did so with the staunch belief that it would be the future home of the Bears' new stadium mecca.

A number of hurdles have forced the Bears and new president Kevin Warren to pivot from what once was their sole stadium focus at Arlington Park to being laser-focused on a publicly-owned stadium on the museum campus at the lakefront.

It's a pivot McCaskey approves of, and hopes will lead to a new domed, state-of-the-art stadium on the lakefront with a revamped museum campus.

“We want what’s best for Bears fans and what’s best for the community," McCaskey said Tuesday at the annual NFL league meetings in Orlando. "If it can be done on the museum campus, we’d be thrilled.”

The Bears must overcome even more hurdles to get their lakefront stadium plan approved and built. While the Bears have pledged to spend $2 billion in private financing for the project, they would still need public funding of around $1 billion for roads, ingress, egress, and assorted infrastructure needs.

Asked about the desire for that level of public funding, McCaskey brushed aside the reported number to focus on the good he believes the project will do for the area.

“I don’t know where you’re getting that figure but that area is a jewel of our great city," McCaskey said. "But it needs better access. This is an opportunity to provide that and bring out all that the museum campus has to offer. I think if we do it right, it will be great for the museums, great for Bears fans, great for the people of the city of Chicago, and great for the region."

The Bears aren't the only Chicago sports franchise hoping to build a new stadium. The Chicago White Sox are eyeing "The 78" as a spot for their new ballpark.

The Bears and White Sox have discussed both of their needs. McCaskey and Warren believe both can achieve their desired outcomes without competing for the same public funds.

“We’ve had a couple good meetings with the White Sox and related development," McCaskey said. "They’re trying to put a White Sox stadium in the 78 parcel and we’re trying to come to an agreement as to what the best type of financing arrangement would be to make both stadiums realities.

"It’s not a competition. It’s not a partnership. I think the best way to put it is an understanding about public financing to make both projects succeed," McCaskey later said.

Asked about the Bears' history with the park district and whether or not he believes, as Warren does, that both parties can start fresh and have a successful long-term partnership, McCaskey seemed outwardly optimistic.

“I think absolutely," McCaskey said. "The Sox have an opportunity to reinvigorate a disused parcel in the heart of the city and we have an opportunity to reinvigorate the museum campus and make it more accessible to more people more days of the year.”

A big draw of the Bears' initial push to build at Arlington Park was the ability to own all the land and create different revenue streams -- parking, hotels, restaurants, etc. -- that the Bears would benefit from year-round.

That will not be the case with a publicly-owned stadium on the museum campus.

While the revenue streams might not be the same, McCaskey believes the Bears could benefit from the lakefront plan in a similar way.

“There’s a lot to be worked out in terms of the deal," McCaskey said. But we’re hopeful that we’ll have enough opportunities and enough say in the management of any facility on the museum campus that it will be a workable situation for us.”

As far as the future of the Arlington property, Warren said Tuesday that the Bears will still own the land and stay in communication with Arlington, but the Bears' full focus is now on the city.

When asked if he plans to sell the land, McCaskey didn't have an answer about the future of the 326-acre parcel.

"We haven't gotten that far," McCaskey said.

Warren said Tuesday that he hopes the Bears can have a finalized plan and deal in place in the near future. The Bears plan to have full renderings, videos, and numbers ready for public consumption soon.

The Bears have completely pivoted their attention from McCaskey's vision in Arlington to one that keeps the team on the lakefront.

McCaskey agrees with it if it's best for the team. But no matter the Bears' direction, Warren and McCaskey still have massive hurdles to clear to move from an initial proposal to shovels in the ground to a finished project.

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