Bears and Town Hall compete for the future of Soldier Field | Editorial
Three months ago, we said that the Lightfoot administration should prepare Soldier Field for a future without the Chicago Bears as the stadium’s primary tenant.
And now, an article published Thursday by Sun-Times reporters Fran Spielman and David Roeder seems to confirm this.
Spielman and Roeder reported that experts believe the team wants a venue with significantly enlarged seats and perhaps a dome, but making these types of changes to Soldier Field would be structurally impossible, cost prohibitive, and politically difficult – or a mixture of all three.
This puts more emphasis on the Bears offer for ownership of Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights. A deal there would move the Bears out of 61,500-seat Soldier Field – the smallest stadium in the NFL – and allow them to build the largest venue the team has always coveted.
It would be unfortunate for Chicago if the Bears scrambled to the suburbs. But their departure, or even a plan to keep them at Soldier Field, offers Chicago the opportunity to rethink the stadium and the nearby Museum Campus.
Massive changes to Soldier Field will not be “easy”
Among the newer venues of the NFL, Inglewood, California’s SoFi Stadium, built in 2020 as the home of the Rams and Chargers, can accommodate 70,000 people, while the Allegiant Stadium of the Las Vegas Raiders has a capacity of 71,800. .
Both have roofs. But covering Soldier Field, especially with a retractable cover, would be a large and expensive command. Dirk Lohan, the architect who spearheaded the $ 660 million renovation of Soldier Field in 2003, told us that “anything is possible for money,” but it won’t be “easy” because Soldier Field doesn ‘is “not fitted out to receive a roof”.
Lohan said the 2003 reconstruction of Soldier Field, which essentially placed a new stadium inside – and domed atop – the old site means the stadium is essentially a mix of two structures.
“If you put a roof on it, you would have three different structures,” Lohan said.
Increasing the number of seats would also be a difficult task, he said.
“[W]What should you do to make the seats bigger? “
“Should we demolish half of [the stadium]? Should the old colonnades be removed, for example? Lohan asked. “Chicago would not stand to damage or alter historic architecture. It is a monument to the soldiers of the First World War.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, after initially rejecting the Bears’ nod to Arlington Heights, told the Sun-Times Editorial Board last week that his team “is evaluating ways to improve the fan experience at Soldier Field “.
But when asked by Spielman if she would consider a retractable roof for the stadium, Lightfoot quoted the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you can try and get what you need.
In our opinion, the approach of separating wants from needs is the best way to ensure some, well, Satisfaction, when it comes to the future of Soldier Field.
Rethinking the museum’s stadium and campus
At the Sun-Times Editorial Board meeting last week, Lightfoot hinted that it viewed Soldier Field as an integral part of the museum’s campus, rather than a stand-alone entity.
It’s a good shot. Because if Soldier Field is showing its age, programmatically, almost 20 years after its renovation, then the museum’s nearly 25-year-old campus is in need of a refresh as well, including the possibility of a restaurant and better access to public transport.
And at Soldier Field, we think the Chicago Park District may have been reckless when it asked the Bears to add an on-site sportsbook, as the state-owned radio station reported last week. Chicago WBEZ.
Bets would not be allowed in the living room or in the stadium, but customers would be able to watch NFL games live on television and view the betting lines. The Bears would make money from the advertising and give the Park District a 20 percent discount.
It seems reasonable to us to add this now – if it is not too late.
No Chicago mayor wants to lose a legendary sports franchise like Bears, so we understand Lightfoot’s desire to determine what kind of improvements the team would keep at Soldier Field.
But it is also not necessary to donate the store. Chicago has survived fires, floods, economic downturns and more. If the Bears end up in Arlington Heights after their Solder Field lease ends in 2033, we’ll survive that too.
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