Bears Stadium

Chicago Bears to announce lakefront stadium plans this week

The Bears' plans will involve green, public space along the lakeshore, according to officials

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The Chicago Bears will unveil plans this week for a proposed state-of-the-art stadium along Chicago’s lakefront, the team announced Monday.

According to a press release, the Bears, “in collaboration with city officials and stakeholders,” will unveil the plans Wednesday, just one day before the start of the NFL Draft.

After purchasing land in suburban Arlington Heights for a proposed domed stadium, the team has changed course and is now intent on pursuing a “publicly-owned” stadium on the city’s lakefront, located near their current home at Soldier Field.

In addition to the stadium, the Bears say they will also announce plans for green and open space along the lakefront, with preserved access to the shoreline for families on the Museum Campus, according to the release.

The Bears' plans have come under increased scrutiny amid a separate push from the Chicago White Sox to secure public funding for a stadium project in the South Loop. According to a recent Crain's report, the teams have been told that there is little appetite on the part of lawmakers to approve separate financing plans for stadiums, and urged the two teams to work together.

The Bears have pledged up to $2 billion in private funding for a stadium, but have not announced other financing details ahead of Wednesday's press conference.

Bears President Kevin Warren recently discussed the change of direction in the team's plans during media availabilities at the NFL league meetings in Orlando.

Warren's 30-minute sit-down with the Chicago media mainly focused on the Bears' efforts to build a new stadium on the lakefront, as opposed to the Arlington Heights location.

Listen to Kevin Warren's full press conference

When asked about the Bears' pivot to the lakefront and the steam their plan is gaining, Warren noted there is still a long way to go, but he believes things are moving in the right direction.

"All of these projects are, you know, that's a great word. They require momentum. They require vision," Warren said. "They require tenacity. They require a lot of thought and planning, but they also require momentum. And I strongly believe that we're building momentum to that museum area.

"So when you have that combination of the museum, the lakefront, the beach, the architecture, and most of all, what makes Chicago special is the people. And so when you can mix that together, you do get great momentum, but it's going to require a lot of work as we proceed forward."

Warren and the Bears are happy to own the Arlington Park property, but their sights are set on downtown.

Chicago Bears President Kevin Warren revealed some candid answers on the future of a new stadium for the team in Chicago. Sandra Torres reports.

"We are the largest landowner in Arlington Heights right now. 326 acres," Warren said. "We own a beautiful piece of land. And I have great respect for Mayor Hayes and Randy Recklaus and all of the politicians there. My belief right now, these projects are incredibly difficult. And just learning the various things that I did in Minnesota, you have to be laser-focused. And right now, we're putting our energy to downtown Chicago, to the museum campus, just from an energy and resource standpoint. So we still own the land. We’re the largest landowner. We’ll stay in communication with Arlington Heights, but the focus now has to be on Chicago to give us the best opportunity for success."

Warren doesn't view the change of focus as a waste of the Bears' initial investment in the Arlington Park property.

"I think one of the things that I would say, and especially in my position, is I always have to live in a world of prioritization," Warren said. "So it’s good to own land. And at the appropriate time, we'll address what is the best use of that land. But for now, the energy and the efforts of our individuals internally, with our consultants and ownership, is focused on Chicago."

The Bears must overcome several obstacles to make the domed stadium on the lakefront a reality.

The first is ensuring a healthy, long-term relationship between the team and the park district. Given their rocky history, that bridge might be harder to cross than it sounds.

"I believe in people, I believe in relationships," Warren said about the park district-team relationship. "And even since I've been able to be here and spend time with individuals at Soldier Field, individuals at the park district, individuals in the city of Chicago, I've only been welcomed. And we've had a great relationship. And I think people have seen that. They feel it. And I'm just confident that when you have a common goal that people can focus on and come together, I'm confident that we'll have a positive relationship as we go forward. And so one of the things I promised myself when I started on April 17 of last year was that I was going to understand and appreciate and embrace the history of the Chicago Bears and all the relationships. But any tension or negativity, I was not going to take it forward. 

Chicago Bears President Kevin Warren offered a candid look at where things stand with the team's plans to build a new stadium in Chicago, what it means for the future of their Arlington Heights property and more. Lexi Sutter reports.

"And so I started from scratch. And I feel that we have not only great from a business relationship, but we've developed a personal relationship. And we work together very well. So I'm pleased with the way that it's gone. And I look forward to even building stronger relationships in the future. So that's an area that’s not really a concern of mine."

As far as the thought that the lakefront project would require more than $1 billion in public infrastructure investment, Warren views the investment, whatever the number is, as good for the city of Chicago as it looks to compete against other cities in the marketplace.

"Those are things that we're working on. 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."

Warren cited a Sports Business Journal article that did not have Chicago in "Top 25 Sports Business Cities" as evidence that the investment is needed.

"But to think Chicago, you know, with this massive background, all the professional sports teams we have, the beautiful landscape, the topography, all those things involved, known for an incredible sports city. For us not to be on that list, from a business standpoint, those are the things that as a citizen of downtown Chicago and the state of Illinois, those are things from a business standpoint, concern me I look forward to the day that events like [the NFL league meetings] should and can be and will be held in downtown Chicago."

The Bears will also face resistance from Friends of the Park, a preservation group known for protecting the lakefront and parks in Chicago. Friends of the Park successfully sued to prevent George Lucas from building a museum along the lakefront and have been opposed to a new stadium on the museum campus.

Friends of the Parks declined comment ahead of the Bears' announced press conference.

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