Could Chicago expand Soldier Field to keep Bears? It would be tough, architects say
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is determined to improve Soldier Field to convince the Bears to remain in Chicago, but her hands may be tied by the constraints of a lakefront seating bowl already towering over historic colonnades at a stadium that's also a war memorial, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The team has put in a bid for the Arlington International Racecourse property in Arlington Heights, where a new stadium could be built.
In Chicago, meanwhile, two architects who worked on Soldier Field's $660 million renovation -- bankrolled by bonds that won't be fully repaid until 2032 -- said only modest expansion is possible at the 61,500-seat stadium, the NFL's smallest.
About 5,000 seats could be added in the least desirable and least expensive areas -- the north and south end zones. But expanding sideline seating would be pretty much out of the question, given the outcry that would surely follow, they said.
"A lot of things are possible. But what do you have to do to expand the seating? Do you have to tear down half of it? Do you have to remove the old colonnades, for instance? Chicago would not stand for damaging or changing the historic architecture. It's a monument to the soldiers of World War I," said venerable Chicago architect Dirk Lohan, who worked with Boston's Ben Wood on the much-ridiculed renovation.