Bears Stadium

Bears meet with Illinois Sports Facilities Authority in next step toward lakefront plan

The ISFA will be critical to helping bankroll a new lakefront stadium

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Bears took a small step in their quest for a new lakefront stadium this week.

Bears president Kevin Warren and executive vice president of stadium development and chief operating officer Karen Murphy met with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority Tuesday, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago. The ISFA is a state agency that will be key to bankrolling Warren's vision for a new domed stadium on the lakefront.

The meeting was described as "preliminary," but the Bears did show the ISFA renderings for their lakefront stadium plan.

During last week's annual NFL league meetings in Orlando, Warren confirmed the Bears' pivot from the Arlington Park property to the lakefront. The Bears have pledged a $2 billion commitment to the project, but experts believe that at least another $1 billion will be needed to complete it, including improvements to the lakefront infrastructure.

"Those are things that we're working on," Warren said last week in Orlando about the additional funding that will be needed. "And one thing that I can guarantee you, I am fiscally conservative, and I am financially responsible," Warren said when asked about public funding. "So anything that we recommend, from a financial standpoint, will be very well thought out."

The ISFA issued bonds to help finance the 2003 renovation of Soldier Field. A two-percentage-point increase in the hotel tax backed those bonds. The bonds will be retired in 2032 but have balloon payments that cause the payments to go from $56.7 million this year to $90.5 million in 2032.

Warren was pressed for a firm timeline on a stadium decision and said he'd like to have something concrete by year's end.

"I really believe that this is the year that we have to pull together and collectively, across the state and across the city and the county to do everything we possibly can, in a manner that makes sense, not being reckless, but in a manner that makes sense to pull together," Warren said. "And then you add the being an election year on top of it. So there are a lot of issues. And there are always a lot of issues. Every one of these development projects has complications, but I'm one of those individuals that I look at it as not only hurdles, but really opportunities and just to think how special it would be to pull together."

The Bears and Chicago White Sox are working to create a joint financing package for both the Bears' lakefront vision and the White Sox's desired move to "The 78."

“We’ve had a couple good meetings with the White Sox and related development," Bears chairman George McCaskey said last week. "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.

Warren said the Bears plan to release complete renderings and a full financial plan to the public soon.

"Our plan is here in the not too distant future to be able to get together and lay out a plan, not only with renderings but video, financial plan, so we can display it to the public," Warren said. "We're working on that here and we know that from a timing standpoint, it's important for us to finish it, so we've been working diligently every day to finalize that. We're getting close to having a plan ready to take public."

NBC Sports Chicago reached out to the ISFA for comment. This piece will be updated.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us