Pritzker: Bears lakefront stadium proposal still ‘a non-starter’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker cast more doubt Wednesday on the Chicago Bears’ proposal to build a nearly $5 billion lakefront stadium, just hours after two of his top staff members met with team officials to discuss the plan.

“As the governor has said, the current proposal is a non-starter for the state,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “In order to subsidize a brand new stadium for a privately owned sports team, the governor would need to see a demonstrable and tangible benefit for the taxpayers of Illinois.”

The remarks follow similar statements Pritzker made last week, after the Bears unveiled their plan to remake the Museum Campus with a publicly owned domed stadium built on the parking lot south of Soldier Field. The $4.7 billion proposal would remove the current Soldier Field seating bowl installed two decades ago, while preserving the original century-old colonnades, to make way for public athletic fields and green space.

The NFL team has pledged $2.3 billion toward the project, but is asking for taxpayers to fund the rest, partially through a 40-year extension of Illinois Sports Facilities Authority bonds, which are backed by the 2% Chicago hotel tax. That would require approval from state lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Bears executives met with Deputy Gov. Andy Manar and Pritzker’s chief of staff Anne Caprara to discuss the plan, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

While shooting down the Bears’ current proposal, Pritzker’s office said he is willing to continue discussions with the team.

Chicago Bears officials met Wednesday with representatives of Gov. J.B. Pritzker to discuss the team’s proposal for a new domed stadium on the parking lot south of Soldier Field. The team has pledged $2.3 billion to help fund the project, but is looking for at least that much in taxpayer money. Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

“The governor’s office remains open to conversations with the Bears, lawmakers and other stakeholders with the understanding that responsible fiscal stewardship of taxpayer dollars remains the foremost priority,” Wednesday’s statement reads.

The Bears also issued a statement Wednesday, describing the talks with Pritzker’s representatives as “productive.”

“We share a commitment to protecting the taxpayers of Illinois and look forward to further discussions,” the team said.

Pritzker last week said getting the Bears a new stadium is not a high priority for him or state legislators.

“I’m for economic development, I’ve been attracting businesses to the state, working hard to create jobs … the problem is that the offer that they’ve made just isn’t one that I think the taxpayers are interested in getting engaged in,” he said.

House Speaker Chris Welch also threw cold water on the project, saying that if called for a vote in the General Assembly it “would fail, and it would fail miserably.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.