Bears Stadium

Bears new stadium plan ‘non-starter for state' governor's office warns

The Bears revealed a plan to build a new stadium south of Soldier Field last week

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The Bears unveiled a bold plan to build a new stadium south of Soldier Field last week, but they have seemingly run into a big obstacle in Springfield. On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s press secretary called the proposal a “non-starter for the state.”

"In order to subsidize a brand new stadium for a privately owned sports team, the Governor would need to see a demonstrable and tangible benefit to the taxpayers of Illinois,” Secretary Alex Gough said in a statement to NBC Chicago. “The Governor’s office remains open to conversations with the Bears, lawmakers, and other stakeholders with the understanding that responsible fiscal stewardship of tax-payer dollars remains the foremost priority.”

According to the governor's press secretary, Pritzker’s Chief of Staff Anne Caprara and Deputy Gov. Andy Manar met with the team to discuss their latest proposal on Wednesday, which was presented publicly for the first time last week.

After the meeting, the Bears released a statement of their own:

“We had a productive conversation with the Governor’s office. We share a commitment to protecting the taxpayers of Illinois and look forward to further discussions.”

Last week's presentation outlined a plan for the team to contribute just over $2 billion to build a publicly-owned stadium in the Burnham Harbor area, while turning Soldier Field into a new open space. Bears COO and executive vice president of stadium development Karen Murphy said in the presentation that the team expects the entire stadium project to cost $4.7 billion: $3.2 for the stadium itself and just over $300 million for the infrastructure required to open it, then $1.2 billion for two other phases of development. When you subtract the $2 billion from the Bears and a potential $300 million from the NFL, it leaves $2.4 billion to be funded by taxpayers. The team will look towards a bond mechanism with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for $900 million of that public money. But that leaves $1.5 billion more to make up the difference.

Pritzker was asked about the plan before the team made its presentation and expressed skepticism.

“I wonder if it’s a good deal for the taxpayers,” Pritzker said. “It’s very important to me that, with all the state needs to accomplish, that we think about what the priorities are for the state… there are a lot of priorities the state has and I’m not sure that this is among the highest priorities for taxpayers.”

After the presentation, Illinois Senate president Don Harmon responded, as well.

“At first glance, more than $2 billion in private funding is better than zero and a more credible opening offer,” Harmon said in a statement. “But there’s an obvious, substantial gap remaining, and I echo the governor’s skepticism.”

The Bears bought 326 acres of land in Arlington Heights last year, and previously announced plans to build a new stadium there. But contentious negotiations about property taxes in the suburbs have become an obstacle for that plan. Earlier this year the team said it was switching its focus away from Arlington Heights back to the city.

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