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Bears' new stadium in Chicago would benefit city, state

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The new fixed-roof stadium the Bears hope to build just south of Soldier Field would give the City of Chicago and state of Illinois a chance to tap into a sports tourism industry that produced a tax impact of $6.6 billion in 2021, a total that is expected to be even higher when 2023 data is released later this spring, according to Sports Business Journal.

Speaking to reporters this week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren expressed his disappointment that Chicago was not included on Sports Business Journal's recent list of the top 25 sports business cities in the country based on attracting and hosting sporting events.

Warren noted that smaller nearby cities Indianapolis and Minneapolis were ranked fifth and 12th, respectively, and Milwaukee and Detroit were listed among "ones to watch." Chicago and Washington, D.C., were the only top 15 markets in the nation not included.

"For Chicago to not have been on that list is a major concern," Warren said. "To think Chicago, with this massive background, all the professional sports teams we have, the beautiful landscape, the topography, all those things involved, known for an incredible sports city, for us not to be on that list … those are things from a business standpoint that concern me."

A fixed-roof stadium would allow Chicago to host major events throughout the year.

"It will put us in a position to bid for a Super Bowl—hopefully we're blessed to host a Super Bowl—[and] to bid for a Final Four," Warren said. "I mean, you look what is going on now these last couple of weeks with March Madness, Big Ten events, College Football Playoff events, concerts and all the other things … When you think about Chicago, how powerful that city is, to think it has never hosted a Final Four, has never hosted a Super Bowl—and until we get a fixed-roof stadium, it will not host it."

In a statement sent to the media earlier this month, Warren revealed that the Bears are committing over $2 billion to build a stadium that will not only be capable of hosting mega events 12 months a year but also will increase green space and boost the economy, create jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

"One of the things I have tried to explore is to really find another private investment in the City of Chicago over $2 billion," Warren said. "I have not been able to do it. I have even tried to explore a private investment in the City of Chicago over $1 billion. I have not been able to do it. So when you have an opportunity to have an investment over $2 billion and also with the support of the National Football League, it is really special and unique."

Warren believes that the Bears and the city deserve a state-of-the-art enclosed stadium on the lakefront.

"This also provides us a great opportunity to decide who we want to be not only in Chicago but in the Chicagoland area [and] the state of Illinois," Warren said. "We are an incredible city, not only in beauty, but this is an excellent opportunity from a business standpoint for us to be able to come together and pull together.

"Our owners have committed to [making] over a $2 billion dollar investment into the City of Chicago in a building that will add so many public benefits. One, it will put people to work, which we need. Two, it creates an opportunity for our Chicagoans to come together to celebrate not only the Chicago Bears but other massive and major mega sports events."

Warren revealed this week that the Bears are close to unveiling their plans for a new stadium.

"Our plan is here in the not-too-distant future to be able to get together and lay out a plan, not only with renderings but video, a financial plan, so we can display it to the public," Warren said. "We are working on that here and we know that from a timing standpoint, it is important for us to finish it, so we have been working diligently every day to finalize that. We are getting close to having a plan ready to take public."

The Bears' sense of urgency is related in large part due to the escalation of costs; Warren told reporters that the cost of building a stadium will increase $150-200 million every year. He also revealed that, based on his experience with the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota when he worked for the Vikings, "the moment we put a shovel in the ground, we can be open in 36 months."

Warren is aware of the contentious relationship the Bears have had at times with the city and the Chicago Park District. But he's not worried about that still being an issue.

"I believe in people; I believe in relationships," Warren said. "And even since I have been able to be here and spend time with individuals at Soldier Field, individuals at the park district, individuals in the City of Chicago, I have only been welcomed. We have had a great relationship. And I think people have seen that. They feel it. When you have a common goal that people can focus on and come together, I am confident that we will have a positive relationship as we go forward.

"One of the things I promised myself when I started on April 17 of last year, I was going to understand and appreciate and embrace the history of the Chicago Bears and all the relationships. But any tension or negativity, I was not going to take it forward."

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