Bears Stadium

Kevin Warren responds to Bears stadium plan's exclusion from spring legislative budget

Warren was understanding of the fact that the Bears weren't on the state's budget

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In late May, the Illinois House passed a $53 billion state budget as part of their spring legislative session. However, the Chicago Bears' plans to acquire public funding for their lakefront stadium project weren't included in the funding.

The plan includes hundreds of millions promised to elementary and secondary education, public schools across the state, migrant relief, medical debt, and tax write-offs for special circumstances. But nothing for the Bears.

At the Lincoln Forum with Fox 32 Chicago, Bears CEO/President Kevin Warren responded to the Bears being left out of the budget.

"I don't think I've ever been disappointed in anything. I understand these are big projects," Warren said when asked if he was disappointed the Bears weren't included. "They take time, energy and effort to come together. They're expensive. You have to have foresight, you have to have vision, you have to have wisdom.

"I understand this is part of the process. I strongly believe we need a new stadium. For Chicago to have never hosted a Super Bowl, a Final Four, a College Football Playoff, these mega-events. We're losing out."

It's important to note the Bears did not ask for a bill or legislation to be passed during this session. However, during the Bears stadium proposal presentation in late April, Warren was hopeful of getting something done as quickly as possible.

It's well-documented that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker isn't steadfast in helping the Bears' stadium plans with public dollars. His press secretary called the Bears' funding plan a "non-starter for the state."

Is Warren surprised by the legislative pushback to his plans to build a new stadium with public money included?

"I would say no," Warren said. "Interestingly enough, every jurisdiction has its own way of doing business. This is exactly what I expected to do. ... This is an election year. We have people who don't have meals to eat. We have people sleeping on the street. We have a lot of complex issues that we are dealing with.

"I'm a realist to understand that these projects are not something you do over a weekend."

The Bears announced in late April the plan to unveil a new, enclosed stadium on the lakefront.

MORE: How Bears plan to fund Chicago stadium project, and how much it will cost taxpayers

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.

In March, the team confirmed it would contribute $2 billion dollars to fund the majority of the project. A slide in the presentation clarified that the number would be closer to $2.025 billion dollars. After that, the team would look to an NFL stadium program for a $300 million loan.

That leaves a $900 million gap for the stadium financing itself. The Bears plan has them looking to a bond mechanism in the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority program to make up the difference.

The Bears said a 2% hotel tax that is already in place for the ISFA should be able to make up the $900 million they need from public funds.

There wasn’t a clear answer as to where the team would get the $300 million for the infrastructure, however. Murphy said the team is still working with the state and looking into different funding sources.

If the team gets the public funding needed to open the stadium, they said there will be two more phases of development requiring public money: one to maximize infrastructure for the stadium and surrounding campus totaling $510 million, and another phase for “optional infrastructure to enhance the campus, improve circulation, and maximize public economic benefits,” totaling $665 million.

Add up all three phases plus the IFSA funding, and it's nearly $2.4 billion in public money.

Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson said then that the Bears’ new plan to build a stadium in Chicago will not raise taxes on city residents.

“I’m going to repeat that one more time to make sure that everybody gets it,” Johnson said after the announcement. “This project will result in no new taxes on the residents of Chicago.”

It's still not clear where some of the funding will come from. Additionally, the Bears indicated they could potentially look for city money as well as state and federal dollars.

The next Illinois state budget is not until next May. But when lawmakers are seated in the winter session the Bears could see some movement in funds.

Warren is confident the Bears and legislative officials will come together and get something done down the road.

"I'm confident at the correct time that we will come together to figure out a stadium solution."

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