Bears Stadium

Why do Bears want to build fixed-roof dome? President shares new details explaining decision

Bears president/CEO Kevin Warren said the team considered a retractable roof and explained why they decided against it

NBC Universal, Inc.

For as long as the Bears have talked about new stadium plans, they’ve talked about their future stadium having a fixed roof. From former president Ted Phillips to current president Kevin Warren, from Arlington Heights to Chicago, building a domed stadium has been a constant. On Wednesday, Warren shared some more details on why the team will opt for a sealed dome rather than a retractable roof.

“That's another couple $100 million, and when we talked to organizations who had retractable roofs they said they used it maybe three or four times a year,” Warren said. “We tried to be fiscally responsible by building the stadium.”

Warren led the charge for the Vikings’ U.S. Bank stadium project, which also has a fixed roof and pointed to that stadium, along with the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium and the Rams’ SoFi Stadium as examples. Those stadiums are known for big, translucent windows to allow natural light to filter into the stadium. Warren said the proposed Bears stadium in Chicago would have the same, and offer views of the surrounding city.

“You'll feel like you're outdoors, that you may have to wear sunglasses,” Warren said.

The renderings the Bears released are impressive looking, but Illinois lawmakers splashed water on the idea that they will come to pass for certain. Before the presentation began, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was skeptical of the proposal to build a new publicly-owned stadium in the city.

“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 Dan Harmon added his voice to the conversation.

“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.”

Per the Bears presentation, they project their full stadium project will cost $4.7 billion. The team said it would contribute just over $2 billion, ask for $300 million from the NFL, and look to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority for $900 million. That leaves a gap of about $1.5 billion, and the team would look for public money to make up the difference. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was emphatic in saying there would be no new taxes for Chicago residents. That seemingly leaves the team to look for state or federal dollars.

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.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us