Chicago mayor offers to put a dome on Soldier Field to keep Bears from leaving

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The Bears appear headed to the suburbs, having signed a purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot either is trying for a Hail Mary to keep the Bears in the city or attempting to avoid blame if/when they leave.

On Monday, she offered to put a dome over Soldier Field, at a potential cost of $2.2 billion. A naming rights deal would pay part of the cost, with “many other potential ancillary naming opportunities” possible, but financing details were lacking.

The stadium was remodeled in 2001 at a cost of $660 million, and that project won’t be fully paid off until 2032.

Other options Lightfoot presented were to rebuild Soldier Field to make it “dome ready” with columns on both end zones or to modify the venue as a multipurpose facility that could host soccer and other events.

“We need to invest in Soldier Field. Soldier Field must be a year-round destination,” Lightfoot said at a news conference at the stadium, via Fox 32. “We must enhance the fan experience, and that’s precisely what we aim to do.

“We are making a compelling case for the Bears to stay in Chicago. They want a Tier One stadium to maximize revenues, and we agree.”

The Bears, though, appear to have one foot out the door. They signed an agreement to purchase the 326-acre site in Arlington Heights for $197.2 million, a deal that won’t close until at least late this year.

The team reiterated Monday what it said July 7: “The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of the property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while under contract. We have informed the City of Chicago that we intend to honor our contractual commitments as we continue our due diligence and predevelopment activities on the Arlington Heights property. In the meantime, we remain committed to fulfilling our permit operating agreement at Soldier Field.”

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