Bears want taxpayers to help pay for their new stadium, experts say city unlikely to get revenue

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Bears want Chicago taxpayers to help pay for their lakefront stadium
The Chicago Bears want taxpayers to help pay for their new proposed lakefront stadium.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium is home to the Rams and the Chargers. It's a privately owned, state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor sports and entertainment complex that cost between $5 billion and $6 billion to build, but not one dime of taxpayers' money was used.

On the other hand, Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium is owned by the public and taxpayers footed 40% of the bill to build it.

That public-private partnership, with taxpayers kicking in on the cost, is the most typical arrangement, experts say, and a combination of public and private funding is what the Chicago Bears are requesting in their pitch to replace Soldier Field with a modern domed stadium on the city's lakefront.

"There are significant benefits to building a dome stadium in a city like Chicago," said Marc Ganis, Sportscorp LTD. "It will attract not just a Super Bowl every decade or so but on an ongoing basis it will be the attraction for major events."

READ MORE: Bears to unveil plans for a new lakefront stadium

Ganis, a sports marketing expert, said the city can generate revenue because it has one of the highest hotel taxes in the country, but sports economists say stadiums are wrongly but successfully sold to taxpayers as investments.

According to the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, since 2020 taxpayers have paid about $750 million toward construction costs of eight new stadiums or arenas across the four major sports leagues.

"That is usually the selling point, we can have development we can have whatsoever. The evidence is overwhelming: these make very poor investments," said Allen Sanderson, University of Chicago economics professor.

RELATED: Former Gov. Patt Quinn proposes referendum on use of taxpayer money to fund Chicago sports stadiums

Sanderson said cities rarely get a return on their investments, especially with football stadiums because there are so few games a year and ticket holders tend to be local.

"The Chicago Marathon probably generates more revenue than most these facilities because two-thirds of the runners are not from Chicago," he said.

Sanderson doubts there will be enough special events and ticket sales year round at a new domed stadium to generate enough revenue for the city.

The announcement from the Bears at 12 p.m. Wednesday will be held at Soldier Field. Besides a new domed stadium, the Bears will announce more green space along the lakefront and museum campus.