Soldier Field expansion plan still short of Super Bowl capacity

The city could add 5,000 of seats to Soldier Field in an expansion plan that's under consideration.
March 5, 2014 2:56:09 PM PST
The city could add 5,000 of seats to Soldier Field in an expansion plan that's under consideration.

Home to the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field's capacity is 61,500 people for football games and 63,500 for other events. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks adding seats could bring in more high profile events- like the Super Bowl.

However, even under the proposal, Soldier Field would still fall short of the NFL's 70,000 capacity requirement for the Super Bowl, which is usually held in a warm city or covered facility.

So would Chicago still be in the running?

"There has been no discussion yet among ownership about future Super Bowls in a cold weather city without a domed stadium," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Stadium capacity for a Super Bowl is addressed on a case-by-case basis as part of the evaluation of a total bid."

A Super Bowl in Chicago has, however, been on the mayor's mind for a while.

In May 2012, Emanuel touted a recent NATO summit as an example of the city's ability to host a big event and said Chicago would be "perfect" for a Super Bowl. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was with Emanuel at Soldier Field at the time, acknowledged that capacity "is always an issue."

"They're going to ask first, does it make sense to expand it? B., if it does make sense, how much? So it's an open question," Mayor Emanuel said.

Eleven years ago, the Soldier Field stadium reconstruction project cost $632 million.

"What we said at the time, was that this was jamming a seating bowl into a monument for veterans, and that wasn't a great idea," John McCormick, Chicago Tribune, said.

"It's going to cost you far more than you could ever get back in revenue," University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson said.

Sources said the idea is just that- an idea. However, aldermen want details.

"Where is the money going to come from? What's the design? Who's going to pay for it?" Alderman Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward, said.

The Chicago Bears released a statement, "We communicate regularly with the Park District on ways to improve Soldier Field and the fan experience. If it made sense to add seats we would be open to that idea."


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