Design & Development

Aurora makes fresh move for Bears stadium

Featured image credit: Chicago Bears/MANICA

The City of Aurora has made a pitch to end the Chicago Bears’ challenges in securing a new stadium project by stating “we want you here”.

Aurora is the second-most populous city in the state of Illinois, after Chicago, with officials outlining their case in an op-ed piece published in the Chicago Tribune. The article, which was signed by Mayor Richard Irvin, along with other officials, read: “While searching for a location for a new domed stadium, the Bears don’t need to call a Hail Mary pass; they have an ideal choice in Aurora, our state’s second-largest and fastest-growing economy.  

“Our city’s vision and professional know-how make Aurora the natural choice for the Bears’ next era. Instead of negotiating with local and state officials over where the money for a new lakefront stadium in Chicago will come from, we’re poised to immediately welcome the Bears’ storied franchise to the City of Lights.

“The prospects of litigation, funding challenges and competing interests mean that negotiations with any other city could last years. Aurora will move now on a magnificent domed stadium that benefits everyone. We have properties ripe for development and incentives that are unmatched.

“Fans won’t be reading about stalled negotiations or potential lawsuits if the Bears choose Aurora. That’s because we’re on a winning streak and view a new Bears stadium as our next successful play. Please understand — we aren’t simply trying to get in the game. We are saying loudly, ‘We want you here’.”

Aurora’s play comes after the NFL franchise’s proposed $3.2bn (£2.51bn/€2.97bn) stadium project hit an initial stumbling block last month, with state lawmakers delaying a decision on a public funding request for the scheme.

The Bears in April unveiled plans to build a new fixed-roof stadium south of Soldier Field, its current home, with work slated to begin in the summer of 2025. The publicly-owned stadium will act as the centrepiece of the Burnham Park Project, which aims to boost year-round use of the lakefront area.

The proposal includes use for recreational and community events and an increase in open and green space, including 14 acres of athletic fields and recreational park space. The stadium itself would cost $3.2bn, with a further $1.5bn to be put towards additional infrastructure.

The Bears have pledged to contribute $2.3bn towards the project, including a $300m stadium loan from the NFL, which would represent over 70% of the total stadium cost. However, the remaining stadium funds are proposed to come from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA).

With state lawmakers still working on a state budget, senators last month declared that there would be no action on the Bears’ funding request before the legislature adjourned for the spring.

Aurora officials say there have been multiple meetings between the Bears and the city since June 2023, when they initially expressed interest in housing the team’s new stadium. The city’s latest move was a talking point yesterday (Tuesday) at an event attended by both Irvin and Bears president, Kevin Warren.

Speaking during the event, Warren said, according to NBC Chicago: “I am happy to see Mayor Irvin here today. He’s an astute businessman. Aurora is a special place.”

Warren said the Bears’ focus remains on delivering a new stadium in Chicago. He continued: “I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed in anything.

“I understand these are big projects. 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’m a realist to understand that these projects are not something you do over a weekend.”

In return, Irvin has proposed an alternative option, including financial support from taxpayers. “We’ll be able to create a financial package that will get them to pay off those billions of dollars in a relatively quick period of time, and start making profit for the Bears,” Irvin said, according to Fox 32 Chicago.

He added: “If it doesn’t work in Chicago or takes one or two years, I can tell you we won’t have those issues in Aurora. I will personally walk it through the process and make those relationships with other agencies, whether it be the townships, school districts, or county.”