Mayor Lori Lightfoot should consider renaming Soldier Field to raise money and “explore the feasibility” of enclosing the stadium with a dome or roof, a panel she appointed to study the Chicago museum campus has recommended.
Lightfoot formed a task force earlier this year to “reimagine the Museum Campus experience with a focus on year-round tourism and on-campus activation.”
The panel’s work marks Lightfoot’s attempt to keep the Chicago Bears, who are exploring a possible move to Arlington Heights, deflect blame if the venerable sports team leaves and identify possible ways to improve a stretch of land that also includes the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the McCormick Place lakefront building.
Lightfoot’s panel recommends transforming Solidarity Drive into a year-round plaza, creating educational programs for children and adding large-scale art to rejuvenate the campus. For the museum campus, he recommends improving CTA service and adding a cart and improving traffic around the area.
But it is the report’s recommendations involving Soldier Field that will draw the most attention.
“To better utilize Soldier Field year-round, the City should also explore the possibility of fencing off the stadium. From May to December, Soldier Field is a busy and busy place. During this time, it is estimated that the stadium will host between 96,000 and 240,000 people each month. However, the use of the arena is much lower from January to April, when the weather limits the use of the outdoor areas of the stadium,” the panel said.
“During these colder months, stadium attendance is estimated to range between 1,200 and 66,800 people per month. Although a closed venue is unlikely to attract many more major concerts due to limited touring windows, among other reasons, it would negate inconsistent weather conditions and allow Chicago to host coveted one-off events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four Championship. ”.
However, the report stops short of recommending the ceiling, saying that “further analysis is required to fully understand the specific costs, potential direct and indirect economic impacts, and the full range of potential funding sources available to determine options that are environmentally friendly.” with Chicago taxpayers. .”
He does say the city should consider a naming-rights sponsorship deal for Soldier Field, which was originally built as a war memorial. Sponsorship deals at other stadiums, including SoFi Stadium in California and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, brought in $400 million each, the panel said. Other stadiums, such as Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, show that you can keep “Soldier Field” in the name and still honor its legacy as a tribute to American soldiers while generating revenue, the panel said.
The Bears signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racetrack last fall, prompting a heated debate about whether the city should try to keep them and at what cost. Soldier Field, owned by the Chicago Park District, seats 61,500 fans, the smallest capacity in the NFL. One advantage to the Bears of moving to Arlington Heights is that they would be able to develop the 326-acre property around the stadium with shopping, dining and entertainment.
As she tries to determine if it’s possible to keep the team in Chicago, the mayor also needs to prepare for a post-Bears future on the lakefront so she can come up with a forward-looking plan to try to defray lost revenue and civic prestige. if they go