May 21, 2024

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Can the Chicago Bears get Caleb Williams and a new stadium?  It sounds like a Hail Mary

Can the Chicago Bears get Caleb Williams and a new stadium? It sounds like a Hail Mary

It's good that Wednesday's press conference began with prayer.

The Chicago Bears will likely need some divine intervention to pull off their latest plan for a new stadium.

“We thank all the people who will benefit from the bears remaining in Chicago,” said Pastor Charlie E. Deets of Progressive Baptist Church. “I don't know you played football, but I'm asking you to help us, help us win some games, help us get a Super Bowl here, help us play in the Super Bowl and bring back that roaring 1985 atmosphere, our cheering fans, for your glory and for ours.” .

Now, Deets, who certainly knows how to run a congregation, admitted that he was joking with the part about God playing football. But it raises the question: If God Almighty is a Bears fan, why has He been testing Chicago for so long?

Dates, whose church is located a short distance from Guaranteed Rate Field, kicked off Wednesday's news conference featuring the Bears The performances are exposed And the lofty promises of a new stadium and a fan-friendly development on the lakefront.

According to the team, the expected cost of the stadium is about $3.2 billion, and the team pledged to pay $2 billion of that, in addition to $300 million in loans from the NFL. This would put the public on the hook for $900 million for the stadium and anywhere from $325 million to more than $1 billion for infrastructure improvements. The stadium will be a public-private deal and will have a roof.

The Bears will need state support for the plan, which centers around extending the hotel tax, preferably before the end of this legislative session, which is coming soon.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker had reservations about giving money to the team for years, and the days of the Illinois governor and House speaker stopping the clock in Springfield to get money to build the stadium are largely over. You can also join the Friends of the Park group that helped destroy the George Lucas Museum on the museum campus. they They're not enthusiastic about this proposal either.

Who really wants to give taxpayer assistance to the bears? It's been proven time and time again that public funds for stadiums are wasteful spending, but no matter where they build a new home, the Bears will need help paying for it. Like all sports teams, they prefer to get that help from the public. So why don't you ask? That's fair, but beyond the money, there are a lot of questions left unanswered such as: Why build a domed stadium on a site where the views are part of the attraction? Will this stadium only hold 65,000 fans, when low seating capacity is the main argument for leaving Soldier Field?

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We can also ask: Why did the Bears choose to hold this press conference, which they should have known would receive negative press coverage, a day before selecting Caleb Williams with the first pick? Why usurp that positive moment? They could have kept it within a week or two. What is rush?

Bears president George McCaskey tapped Kevin Warren to be the team's president to get this deal done, by hook or by crook. On Wednesday, it was spinning faster than the Williams vortex.


The Bears have released renderings of their stadium project proposal. (Courtesy of Chicago Bears)

Warren promised that the plan, which includes adding green space where Soldier Field now stands and erecting a new stadium just south of it, could fix everything from Chicago's reputation as a city for big events to its crime rate.

According to Warren, Chicago will have a Super Bowl, a Final Four, and peace in the streets.

“This will have 14 acres of athletic fields and a recreational park to allow, as I mentioned earlier, our young people to be able to come together and do things in a productive way,” Warren said. “We have a crisis in this world with our youth. There is a race to see who reaches our youth first, the streets or us.”

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The Bears unveil plans for a new stadium near Soldier Field

And if this deal helps Warren's reputation, makes the McCaskey family richer and entertains the Grabowski family, so much the better. To his credit, Warren also made some firmer promises.

“We're going to build restrooms,” Warren said. “We're going to make this a place people want to come and spend time.”

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(If you're like me, you read that and imagined James Earl Jones saying, “We're going to build bathrooms, Ray.”)

All of these stadium plans (and Olympic bids) involve the kind of public good that can be envisioned without spending billions on an actual stadium. Warren isn't talking about building parks in pockets of the city where kids really need them, and it's not as if the museum campus is easily accessible to kids on the West and South Sides. But loud statements saying: “We are doing this for the children” sound better than simply acknowledging “Give us the money to build a new playground.” We all know that this is the truth.


Can the Bears and the city of Chicago get this deal done? (Courtesy of Chicago Bears)

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is trying to pull off a similar trick west of Soldier Field. It's made worse because he didn't promise a lot of money to help, he already did that in the late 1980s and everyone (most notably White Sox fans) is already blaming him for the team's mess.

Like the Sox, the Bears received state help to rebuild their stadium, and that was just two decades ago. How do you work with it? We still have a staggering amount of public spaceship debt on the lake and the team wants to move. (Fans don't like it either, but if the Bears are good, they won't care much.)

The Bears have been looking for a new home for years, and just last year they closed their doors at Arlington Park Raceway in the northwest suburbs. It seemed certain that they would build a new stadium along with a mixed-use commercial development on 326 acres. I mean they already own the land. They will own the stadium. It would make sense, wouldn't it?

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Not for the Bears, who aren't exactly known for their managerial success.

Their grand plans were stalled by a dispute with suburban school boards over property taxes, and now the Bears, led by Warren, who lives downtown and has befriended Mayor Brandon Johnson, are back in a city and a stadium they don't want. Don't own it all.

Some people thought this was all just posturing. But so are the village of Arlington Heights and school districts Willing to negotiateIt appears that Warren is still focused on staying in Chicago.

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Years ago, the Bears got into a fight with former mayor (and Bears season ticket holder) Lori Lightfoot, who sarcastically told them to worry about beating the Green Bay Packers. Although the Bears haven't done that since 2018, even before Lightfoot's election, they have had more success dealing Johnson. Now they just have to charm Pritzker and the state Legislature.

good luck.

At the news conference, Johnson, as expected, mentioned Daniel Burnham, the father of the Chicago Plan and a champion of the city's protected lakefront. It's the political version of calling up Papa Per Halas or Mike Ditka.

“Daniel Burnham's vision for the lakefront was to focus on the people, the people of Chicago,” Johnson said. “He envisioned an active lakefront with space and entertainment for all to enjoy. The plan revitalizes that vision.”

Burnham died in 1912, nine years before the Decatur Staleys moved to Chicago, so we'll never know what his feelings were on domed courts versus “Bear Weather.”

But he agrees that Warren and the Bears are making no small plans here. Will these plans be achieved? I don't know about you, but until the shovel hits the ground, I'm going to remain skeptical about the completion of the Hail Mary.

(Top view of the Chicago Bears' proposed stadium)