Pritzker aides meet with Bears about new stadium: 'Current proposal is a non-starter for the state'

ByJohn Garcia and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Chicago Bears meet with Gov. Pritzker aides about lakefront stadium
The Chicago Bears met with aides for Governor JB Pritzker Wednesday via Zoom about state tax support for a new lakefront stadium near Soldier Field.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Bears are meeting for the first time Wednesday with top aides for Illinois Governor JB Pritzker about their new stadium plans.

They are talking about the possibility of a new lakefront stadium near the current site of Soldier Field on Chicago's Museum Campus.

When the NFL team presented their plans for a sparkling new $4.6 billion stadium on the lakefront last week, they said it was contingent on lawmakers in Springfield approving a plan to help pay for it. That could be a real challenge, as representatives from the Bears are likely learning from their virtual meeting.

The Bears have a job to do to convince lawmakers in Springfield that this is a worthwhile thing to do
Rep. Kam Buckner, IL 26th District

The Bears met via Zoom with Illinois Deputy Governor Andy Manar and Pritzker's Chief of Staff Anne Caprara. Pritzker himself did not attend the meeting.

The governor has previously criticized the Bears' plan to use taxpayer money to help build a new stadium. He has said flat out that a new Bears stadium is not a priority for him or lawmakers.

A spokesperson for Pritzker's office released the following statement about the meeting:

"Today, Chief of Staff Anne Caprara and Deputy Governor Andy Manar met with the Chicago Bears organization to discuss the team's stadium proposal. The Governor's Office appreciates the opportunity to discuss the Bears' proposal and appreciates the organization for taking the time to discuss it. As the Governor has said, the current proposal is a non-starter for the state. 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 to the taxpayers of Illinois. The Governor's office remains open to conversations with the Bears, lawmakers, and other stakeholders with the understanding that responsible fiscal stewardship of tax-payer dollars remains the foremost priority."

The Chicago Bears organization issued the following statement about the meeting:

"We had a productive conversation with the Governor's office. We share a commitment to protecting the taxpayers of Illinois and look forward to further discussions."

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The Bears specifically want the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to commit to more than a billion dollars in new debt from the 2% hotel tax, to be repaid over 40 years.

Several state leaders, however, have said taxpayers are not in support of tax dollars going to pay for sports stadiums.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has spoken in support of the new stadium, saying it would benefit taxpayers without adding new taxes. However, the city does not have the money to help the Bears build a stadium, and most of the funds would need to come from skeptical lawmakers in Springfield.

"The Bears have a job to do to convince lawmakers in Springfield that this is a worthwhile thing to do," Illinois 26th District Representative Kam Buckner said.

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The Bears said last week they hope to get approval for their stadium plan during the current legislative session so they could begin construction this summer. Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch last week, however, said that's unlikely, and Governor Pritzker seems unlikely to help.

The Bears have said costs for the stadium plan increase every month they wait to get the project started. Some lawmakers say there is still a lot of work to do and there is no guarantee the project will ever get started.