Bears Stadium

Brandon Johnson responds to stadium skepticism from Friends of the Parks, Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson joined NBC Sports Chicago's Football Night in Chicago

NBC Universal, Inc.

Prominent Chicago preservation group Friends of the Parks responded Wednesday to the highly anticipated reveal of the Bears' newest stadium proposal in Chicago, which includes tearing down much of the current Soldier Field in order to build a domed facility and more.

Friends of the Parks, which successfully sued to prevent George Lucas from building a museum along the lakefront, has previously voiced opposition to the construction of any new stadium project on the Museum Campus, where the Bears are proposing their new stadium site.

"The 'Chicago Way' was on full display at the Chicago Bears news conference today. Once again, Chicago taxpayers are being told what is good for them. We are told that a new domed stadium on protected lakefront land will make Chicago a great city," the group said in response to the announcement. "We are already a great city—in large part due to our protected lakefront. As is so often the case in Chicago, the powerful and wealthy are demanding that our entire city stop and fast-track their plans to expand operations on the people’s lakefront."

MORE: Friends of the Parks responds to Bears' new stadium proposal

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson joined NBC Sports Chicago's "Football Night in Chicago" to respond to the criticism from Friends of the Parks and their concerns for the lakefront ordinance, which prohibits privately invested structures built east of Lakeshore Drive.

On Wednesday, the Bears and the city of Chicago announced plans for a new stadium on the lakefront that received a lot of criticism from Friends of the Park. Brandon Johnson responded to that pushback on NBC Sports Chicago

"Well, you know, again, the lakefront protected ordinance, you know, which I'm fully in support of," Johnson said. "I'm confident that we are not in opposition to that ordinance. Again, we're talking about 20% more open [green] space. The amount of investments that are going into creating 14 more acres of space for our children and our young
people in the city of Chicago to benefit from that.

"That's been the vision for the lakefront for some time. You know, look, I know that there has been a regular practice in the city of Chicago where things have just been rammed down people's throats. This is a proposal. What we're saying is we have an opportunity to not just keep the Bears in the city of Chicago, but 24,000 jobs, construction jobs just for the people of Chicago. 46,000 construction jobs for the region. 2.5 billion, 3.5 billion in Chicago region of labor income, the type of income that's needed to afford to live in the city of Chicago. That's what this proposal provides.

"And so I'm looking forward to the continued conversation. And again, this notion that we were going to lose the Bears to another space, we didn't do that. This notion that we could not provide a development with real collaboration for public benefit. We've done that. The fact that we have created public use. We've done that. The fact that we are creating opportunities for our young people, our students and a Catholic League. Like could you imagine, you know, these, high-stakes tournaments where young people get a chance to participate downtown with the lakeshore as the backdrop, on a Saturday night or a Sunday night?

"Graduations can be held there. There are so many different opportunities that we have at this moment. And make no mistake about it, my job and my responsibility is to make sure that the people of Chicago benefit from any investment. And that's what this proposal does."

Johnson and the Bears spoke at Soldier Field Wednesday about their plan for a new stadium. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, according to him, was not invited to the press conference to speak.

How does Johnson respond to the lack of alignment between the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois?

"Well, I run the city of Chicago," Johnson said. "I mean, that's my responsibility to people in Chicago voted for me to run the city. And what the city has made very clear is that the public use and the public benefits to transform the lakefront. That has always been my goal. It's not about just keeping the bears in the city of Chicago, which we have a commitment from the Bears to remain in Chicago, but it's also about the transformation that exists there.

"Now, as far as the next steps, of course, to engage the speaker of the House, the Senate president to engage the governor, to engage the people of Chicago as a whole. That is also part of the process. But we needed to make sure that the Bears organization in my administration were on the same page. And when it comes to investing in this moment, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, we're talking about $3.5 billion of income in four workers.

"That's transformational. We're also talking about the long-term sustainability of this opportunity to have 20% more open green space, 14 acres of new fields for our young people to be able to participate in. This is a win-win-win for the city of Chicago. And I'm prepared to work as hard as anyone else to ensure that the resources are there to complete this endeavor."

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