Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced proposals for a major renovation of Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, as the NFL team explores plans to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights.
Lightfoot has proposed three options, which have been developed by Landmark Development, its president Bob Dunn and a wider team of stadium engineers, designers and financial experts.
The first option proposes a fully enclosed stadium by rebuilding both endzones with columns that can support a dome structure, while the second option centres on rebuilding both endzones with columns to make the stadium “dome-ready”.
The third option would be to modify Soldier Field into a multi-purpose stadium better suited for football (soccer) while improving its flexibility to accommodate major concerts and a range of events.
The City of Chicago said the first two options would make Soldier Field a “top-tier NFL stadium” and provide the Bears with a “tremendous opportunity” to fulfil their vision. All three options include major programmatic changes and concourse space improvements, while preserving the historical elements of Soldier Field.
The cost of each option will be refined based on a finalised scope, but it is anticipated they will range from $900m (£749m/€883m) to $2.2bn, which the city notes is considerably less than any new stadium would cost. According to the city, the cost benefit to the Bears of improving Soldier Field versus developing a new stadium on an alternate site is anticipated to be at least $1bn to $1.5bn.
The proposals outlined by the city would see the seated capacity at Soldier Field increase from 61,500 to 70,000, including additional fan activation areas. The number of traditional suites would also increase from 133 to 140, while six new major club and experiential areas would be added.
The stadium’s food and beverage square footage would also quadruple from 50,000 to 200,000. Other features would include more secondary club and activation areas, more opportunities for major sponsorships and naming rights, and more flexible event space and multi-purpose venues.
“An improved Soldier Field will deliver a world-class visitor experience,” said Lightfoot. “Furthermore, any of these proposed renovations will allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come, as these changes will allow us to keep bringing sports, music and other exciting events to our city.”
The proposals outlined by the city would also incorporate the lakefront Museum Campus on which Soldier Field sits. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Dunn, who has worked on several NFL stadium projects in the past, is planning on building a $20bn high-rise community next to Soldier Field.
In March, it was reported that the Bears were working with Manica Architecture as the team explores the possibility of building a new stadium on the site of Arlington International Racecourse.
The Bears signed a $197m purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse in September. The agreement covers the entire Arlington Park land parcel in the Village of Arlington Heights.
The Bears submitted a bid for the racecourse last June, with Lightfoot describing the move as “clearly a negotiating tactic” amid talk over the team’s long-term future at Soldier Field.
Soldier Field is the oldest stadium in the NFL having opened in 1924. With a capacity of 61,500, it is also the smallest in the league.
Images: City of Chicago