Lakefront FIRST Initiative: Maximizing Public Benefits of the Museum Campus,
McCormick Place, Navy Pier and Soldier Field
A vision for the future of Chicago and its prized lakefront.
From the City of Chicago
Why invest over $500 million in improvements around Soldier Field?
lakefront jewel that extends from Navy Pier to McCormick Place is one of
Illinois' true treasures, offering daily benefits to residents and visitors.
It is also one of Chicago's signature sights, familiar to people around the
stature as a world-class city is inextricably tied to the beauty, quality and
best use of its lakefront. The entire Navy Pier to McCormick Place corridor has
been completely revitalized, with the exception of Soldier Field, our historic
FIRST would create a multi-purpose public asset that will further differentiate
Chicago and its lakefront from every city in the world.
Total project cost of $587 million, with $365 million estimated for the
stadium, $75 million for the underground parking structure, $147 million in
related infrastructure such as outside parking facilities, 19 acres of
additional parkland, roadway improvements, site work, utilities, storm water
drainage, miscellaneous infrastructure, and other costs.
Funding of the project will be in the form of an Illinois Sports Facilities
Authority (ISFA) bond issue consisting of $387 million of usable bond
proceeds. Existing tourist (hotel/motel) taxes will be utilized along with a
significant $200 million private contribution from the Chicago Bears.
The Bears contribution will consist of a $100 million National Football League
(NFL) loan, a bank loan and Personal Seat Licenses (PSL's) sold for a
portion of the stadium.
act now on The Lakefront FIRST Initiative?
do events converge to create the opportunity that exists to revitalize Soldier
Field and to continue bolstering the surrounding lakefront neighborhood. A
strong economy and the ability to tap existing funding sources - such as the
ISFA and the NFL- make the project possible today. These funding sources will
not be available in the future.
importantly, a major portion of funding for The Lakefront FIRST Initiative will
come in the form of a $200-million contribution from the Chicago Bears, one of
the largest such contributions made by an NFL team for a publicly owned
facility. Upgrading Soldier Field now will save the Chicago Park District the
millions of dollars it would otherwise need to spend to keep the NFL's oldest
stadium structurally sound.
beginning the Lakefront FIRST initiative now, the project can immediately reduce
costs, save time, and avoid the spending of millions of dollars in both short
and long-term maintenance necessary to keep the current Soldier Field facility
safe and useful, and save time through efficient construction scheduling.
Cost of Doing Nothing
A lost opportunity to revitalize Soldier Field and its city-essential
surroundings using existing state agency, Chicago Bears and NFL funding
The possible functional loss or further degradation of Soldier Field, a
treasured Chicago and national landmark.
A lost opportunity to pump $200 million in private funds into the Chicago
economy, the creation of 2000 new local jobs during the two year construction
period and additional jobs during operations.
The continued use of Soldier Field, which in its current configuration, cannot
meet modern ADA and code standards and is inefficient to operate.
The diminishing of Chicago's identity as a can-do city with world-class
Pace with Other Cities
new stadiums, which have opened since 1998, or are scheduled to open by 2003:
Tampa, Cleveland, Nashville, Cincinnati, Denver, Boston, Pittsburgh,
Seattle, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Green Bay.
stadiums which are all less than seven years old:
Charlotte, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Atlanta
stadiums which have undergone major renovations in the 1990's:
San Diego, Dallas, Buffalo, New Orleans, New York, Indianapolis
stadiums represent 80% of all NFL markets. Soldier Field is at least 30 years
older than the next oldest NFL stadium.
Broad Public Benefits of the Lakefront FIRST Initiative
the City of Chicago
of New Lakefront Parkland.
The project will create approximately 19 acres of additional waterfront parkland
for public enjoyment. This green space will be programmed for year-round public
uses such as a sledding hill, winter garden, a terraced park, an area for
outdoor museum exhibits and other features. A playground for hard-surface sports
would be built on surface parking lots near McCormick Place. The additional
recreation space for Chicago and its visitors will result in the largest
lakefront play/education neighborhood in Chicago.
The project includes improvements to the McFetridge and Lake Shore Drive
intersection, which will improve vehicular and pedestrian access for museum,
park and event patrons. McFetridge Drive will be converted to a pedestrian plaza
immediately in front of the Field Museum on event days. This large plaza will
connect the Museum Campus to the new north gateway to Soldier Field, bisecting
the new garage. Flanking the west side of the gateway is a granite wall, 250
feet in length. Covered in a curtain of water, this wall will serve as a
memorial sculpture to the men and women who served in the armed forces. In
addition, a new more easily accessible Lakeshore Drive entrance at 18th
Street will lead visitors through a beautiful tree lined parkway to the Museum
Campus and offer one of the best views of Chicago's skyline and lakefront.
An improved bus staging area for loading and unloading has been carefully
designed, and numerous benefits accrue to the Museum Campus such as:
Faster exit times for bus traffic
Greater separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic
Dedicated taxi/limousine queue
Increased bus staging area
Easy access to 2,500 car parking garage
More flexibility for routing of traffic during special events
Increased public safety, particularly for small children and school groups
Expanded Public Parking.
The year-round parking facility will create 2,500 new underground parking
spaces immediately adjacent to the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, and 3,100
outdoor spaces between the stadium and McCormick Place, greatly relieving
congestion for those visiting the lakefront corridor, especially The Museum
Campus and McCormick Place.
New Museum Visitors Center.
A new visitors' center, conveniently located at the 2,500 car garage exit area
will be funded by the project, and will provide an excellent space for museum
displays, special event postings and ticket sales.
Multi-use Lakefront Wonder.
Above and beyond the Bears games, the New Soldier Field will host an increasing
number of athletic events, prime concerts, and large civic, cultural and
educational gatherings. The unique design will allow for easy stage setup and
take down, along with a field that can accommodate both professional and
international soccer events.
Round Potential Uses.
Development opportunities exist, which could include a permanent retail shop,
Hall of Fame, restaurant and banquet room.
An accelerated construction schedule (to be completed in 20 months) will be
funded by the project and serve to minimize disruption to the Museum Campus. A
minimum of 2,500 on-campus spaces will be maintained for museum use throughout
the construction period.
New Soldier Field Links Chicago's Signature Landmark to its World-class
The colonnades of Soldier Field, symbols of both civic pride and respect for our
armed services, will be preserved, restoring and maintaining the historic nature
of the facility. The investment in Lakefront FIRST honors our past and our
future. Soldier Field is a national icon all of Illinois can be proud of, now
and into the new millennium.
Public Amenities of the New Soldier Field
From the City of Chicago
An increase in sideline seating from the current 40% of seats to over 60% -- and vastly improved sight lines overall.
A distributed sound system to provide crisp, clear sound to every seat along with two state-of-the-art super-sized video boards, greatly increasing the desirability of the venue as a host to large outdoor concerts and civic events.
An increased number of new and improved restrooms (over 1,000 restroom fixtures) plus more variety and access at over 400 concession points of sale and wider aisle ways to relieve congestion in the concourses.
A spectacular 100,000 square foot club lounge that could accommodate an endless variety of special events and parties.
A south courtyard setting inside current Gate O will provide fans with outdoor concessions in a garden terrace setting.
Larger and more comfortable skyboxes (133 total) with a typical seating capacity of 20 to attract Chicago's business community.
A capacity of approximately 63,000 seats, including 8,600 cushioned club seats, which will be 21" wide. General seats will be a generous 19" - 20" wide.
A stadium that meets all ADA and OSHA requirements.
the City of Chicago
You're calling this a lakefront improvement project, but all I've ever heard
about is a new stadium for the Bears. What other improvements are going to be
This project will
create approximately 19 acres of additional parkland that will become the
premier lakefront recreation venue in Chicago. This year-round public use area
will include a terraced park, a winter garden, a sledding hill and other
hard-surfaced sports areas. A new museum visitors' center will provide an
excellent space for museum displays and schedules, while new parking facilities,
bus drop-offs and roads will improve access to the museum campus. The new
stadium also would attract additional concerts, cultural events and convocations
as well as provide a new home for professional soccer.
Anything new and big usually means the taxpayers wind up paying for it, like the
new stadiums in Seattle and Cincinnati. How much of a new Soldier Field will the
taxpayers of Illinois actually pay for?
None of it. If
approved by the General Assembly the lakefront improvement plan will be funded
partly by redirecting hotel/motel tax revenue, which is paid mostly by visitors,
and the Chicago Bears themselves, who are putting up $200 million, the largest
single contribution ever made by an NFL team for a publicly owned stadium.
Shouldn't this additional revenue from the hotel/motel tax be put to something
more pressing, like public school funding?
through the hotel/motel tax are specifically dedicated to help fund new tourism
projects, such as the plan to improve Chicago's lakefront. Our schools are
funded from allocations drawn from general state taxes such as property taxes,
as well as taxes levied on the Illinois gaming industry.
Why do this now? Is there a reason why our legislators need to decide so
Yes. Opened in
1924, Soldier Field is the oldest stadium (by more than 30 years) currently used
by an NFL club and is showing its age. But perhaps more importantly, a vital
piece of the funding mechanism is an NFL resolution to subsidize new stadium
construction, which may expire if the matter at hand is not acted upon quickly.
This plan sounds like it only benefits the Bears and the city of Chicago. What
about downstate residents?
benefits all Illinoisians because an improved lakefront and a new Soldier Field
generate more tourism, which generates more money for state projects. More
tourism dollars mean more money available for critical programs and less
dependency on your tax dollars.
A football stadium doesn't add to the beauty of our lakefront. Why don't
they build it somewhere else?
Sites for a new
stadium in Chicago or surrounding suburbs have been considered for 25 years.
None has measured up to the present Soldier Field site with respect to location,
access and rich history. This dramatic new presentation of a building that has
identified Chicago's lakefront for three-quarters of a century will enrich the
lakefront, not detract from it.
What's going to be so special about a new stadium?
A new stadium
would be a state-of-the-art multiple-use venue that would attract new civic,
cultural, religious and education gatherings. Soldier Field is the oldest
stadium currently in use by an NFL team, by more than 30 years, and its age is
showing. The new stadium would have ample restrooms, improved seating, better
sightlines, an enlarged concourse, two huge 96-foot-by-23-foot videoboards,
improved concessions, greatly expanded parking and other amenities.
But won't a modern-look stadium diminish Soldier Field as a national historic
team has taken great pride in preserving the historic nature of this jewel along
the lakefront. The classic colonnades will remain intact as a lasting monument
to Soldier Field's glorious past, and a 250-foot granite-wall sculpture will
serve as a memorial to the men and women who served in the armed forces. Under
the unique design, spectators will be able to walk among the colonnades and the
horseshoe promenade with its unmatched views of the lake, new parkland and
Chicago's skyline, a purpose that was designed into the original stadium but
one which was lost over time.
If the stadium project becomes reality, will I still be able to visit the rest
of the Museum campus during construction?
The Bears are
keenly aware that their lakefront partners - the Field Museum, the Shedd
Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium - will be conducting regular business during
construction. The Bears have pledged to keep the area accessible for Museum
campus visitors during construction and believe that the temporary inconvenience
will be well worth the final result of more overall parking and easier access to
the Museum campus.
Where would the Bears play while a new Soldier Field is under construction?
process of finding a temporary home would start with determining which large
stadiums are in proximity to the Bears' current season ticket holders. Those
venues include Ryan Stadium at Northwestern University, Notre Dame Stadium and
Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Any decision on
where to play prior to approval of the funding by the General Assembly would be
If the Bears play at Notre Dame or Illinois won't that put a hardship on Bear
fans, especially those that live in the north and northwest suburbs?
inconvenience would put a hardship on Bears fans, but no more than it would on
Coach Jauron and the team. The inconvenience should be viewed as an investment
into a new stadium that would be unsurpassed in its design, sight lines,
amenities and setting.
I hear the Bears are moving their training camp site as well. Is that true?
The Bears have not
discussed any move from their current training camp at the University of
Wisconsin - Platteville.
If a new Soldier Field is built, will it be renamed as well? Will it have a
corporate sponsor's name attached?
rights" are a reality in today's sports economy, but fans can be assured
that the historic name of "Soldier Field" would always remain a part of a
new stadium's name.
What's the deal with Personal Seat Licenses?
Licenses, or PSL's, allow season ticket holders to guarantee that they always
will have the right to buy season tickets. The proceeds, usually a one-time
payment, could be used as part of the funding mechanism. However, to say that
the Bears will require all season ticket holders to purchase PSL's in a new
stadium is inaccurate. The Bears are considering whether the use of PSL's is
practical and the best method to achieve part of the funding.
Does a new stadium mean an increase in ticket prices?
The Bears will
determine the price of tickets after weighing many factors, including ticket
prices charged by their competitors in the NFL, prices charged by other local
professional sports teams and other Chicago-area entertainment venues.
Image of Soldier Field by SeatData.com
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
November 16, 2003 - They kept the colonnades... and the exterior facade... but everything else about Soldier Field is different. This is one brand new stadium that provides all the new amenities typical to the new NFL venues, and at the same time, serves as a bridge to the stadium's storied past. Of course we had to make the trip, plant the USRT flag (again), and check things out...
|Soldier Field Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 7.5|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 8|
|Bonus: Tailgate Scene|| 2|
|Bonus: Bears Fight Song|| 1|
|Bonus: Colonanades|| 1|
|Bonus: Grand Concourse|| 2|
|Bonus: Out-of-Town Scoreboard|| 1|
|Bonus: PA Guy Timeout Question|| 1|
|Total Score|| 67.5|
Soldier Field is an old venue... in fact the oldest stadium in the National Football League, having opened way back in 1924. And this place oozes history... hosting the Dempsey-Tunney fight in 1927, a religious event in 1954 which drew a crowd of over 260,000, and also some very memorable college football games over the years (remember the annual College All Star Game? It was played right here.). But as far as the Chicago Bears are concerned, they have called Soldier Field home for only the past 30 or so years, having played at Wrigley Field before then.
Hallowed grounds these are, but the stadium had clearly fallen to the rear of the pack in terms of the modern amenities and revenue generators that make up an NFL stadium. So what were they to do? Go elsewhere? Refurbish the place? The answer is they did a little of both... for a season the Bears played in temporary quarters at the University of Illinois while most of Soldier Field was gutted and demolished, and a new stadium rose in its place. What you have here is the old meeting the new, and a stadium whose design and personality is truly unique among its NFL peers.
Getting to the Venue
We carped on this last time and things have not changed much... getting to Soldier Field and parking your car is a real challenge. You can find Soldier Field just south of downtown and in view of the skyline, with access off of I-94 east to I-55 and onto Lakeshore Blvd. The stadium is situated on the waterfront, in the beautiful and historic Park District, and much of the adjoining property is devoted to park land and other public spaces. That means not exactly much space for parking lots and ramps. What parking does exist here is reserved for "coupon" holders, meaning season ticket holders who prepay for parking. For the single ticket buyer, there are cash lots available in the downtown area and the other side of Lakeshore Drive, but directional signage to those lots are nowhere to be found. If you do find these lots, parking is $10 and that includes a shuttle ride to the stadium. Go into the neighborhood west of Lakeshore and you will find some private lots, but be prepared to shell out $30-$35 dollars. The other bit of bad news is that street parking is banned on game days and "tow away" signs warn you that your car will disappear. There is a Metra rail line with a station just steps from the stadium. Park and ride might indeed be the best strategy of them all.
Outside the Venue
The Park District really defines this venue. Here you have a stadium literally built in a park... with trails, picnic areas, beaches along the lake, a waterfront marina and an adjacent museum and aquarium. Just a very pretty setting, and with the new Soldier Field has come an entire host of improvements, lighting, decorative pavement and landscaping to further enhance the park and the district. Of course, that means no definitive tailgate scene, but that doesn't stop the parties and the grills from being a happenin' thing here... the surface lot directly south of the stadium seems to be tailgate central here ("coupon" required for admittance).
At one point during construction of the stadium, the idea of a corporate name was suggested. Of course, there was plenty of outrage at removing the "Soldier Field" moniker. Gratefully that idea was shelved, and not only did the name remain, but a couple of striking monuments were put in place to commemorate the men and women who served in the military. On the north side is the signature monument saluting the soldiers and just beyond that is a passageway to enter the stadium, and here is a marble display and fountain saluting each branch of the Armed Forces. The old facade and simple signage of Soldier Field was kept intact, with lots of flag poles and American flags, and the symbolism and patriotism can be felt everywhere.
Architecture and the Concourses
What draws your immediate attention at any photo of Soldier Field? The colonnades, of course! These doric pillars are indeed the signature element of the old and the new Soldier Field, and were kept intact for the stadium's reconstruction. Located on both sides of the venue, these areas serve as sort of an outer concourse, and in addition to keeping the exterior facade intact, they also kept the many narrow doorways in place to get inside the building. From a distance Soldier Field looks like a giant spaceship landed right onto the field. But the futuristic design of the new building and the classic Greco-Roman accents seem to come together nicely.
The main entrance is through the south end zone, and once inside the doors, you enter a massive public plaza with concessions, a stage for live entertainment, and large murals heralding great moments in the building's history. This is all part of what is called "The Grand Concourse" and veer off to the left and you will find Bears historical exhibits, giant black and white photos of memorable moments in American military history and corresponding memorable quotes from our leaders. This area is designed to give one time to pause and reflect, yet enjoy the ambience of the primary reason for being here, and that is to see a football game.
The other concourses throughout the building display a "Ring of Honor" - backlit blue and orange panels with names and images of the many great players who have worn the Bears uniform over the decades. One other area of note is the "Miller Lite Party Deck", an area high above the north end zone concourse, separate ticket required so we could not get up there.
The Seating Bowl
This is where the difference between old and new is at its greatest as it bears absolutely no resemblence to the seating bowl as years gone by. Three levels of seating are on each sideline and two levels overlook the endzone....all in the team color of dark blue.
There are two giant videoboards, one above each endzone and in a twist, one board is slightly off the right of center. LED boards run along the second balcony on the sidelines.
As in Philips Arena in Atlanta, all club seating is located on one sideline and five levels of suites stand above the seating bowl on the east sideline.
Here was a BIG disappointment. Not much more than the standard ballpark fare to be found here. Not even the famous deep dish pizza......hot dogs, beer, nachos.....blah blah blah. Just basic ballpark dreck. Considering the amount of space in the building, the team store at the north end zone is really small in size and a disappointment in terms of variety of merchandise.
Club seating runs across two decks on the stadium's east side, and in addition to an enclosed concourse, the east colonnade area is reserved for suites and club seats. Suites run as much as five levels high way above the seating bowl. Costs for club seats run $195-$310 a piece.
Most of the historical artifacts and information about the Bears is found in the Grand Concourse. Here where the 13 retired numbers can be found with a section all to itself.....names like Nagurski and Luckman from the old days join in with Sayers and Butkus from the 60's along with Walter Payton from the most recent glory days of the Bears.
Touchdowns, Extra Points, Fumbles...
Fumble 35$ to park!!!!! Are you kidding! We don't need to say more about this do we!
Fumble to the USRT karma as the Bears completed the clean sweep of Chicago teams for us this weekend by stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. The Rams rallied from 11 points down to win the game by a 23 - 21 count. We take solace in the Bears covering the spread.
Fumble According to the Soldier Field fan guide, the new facility has twice as many rest rooms as the old place. Well you sure could have fooled us by the amount of time we had to wait in line! One suggestion from us could be to bring back those port-a-johns which dotted the old venue. (kidding!)
Extra Point "Bear Down Chicago Bears" is the cool Chicago fight song played after each touchdown. These old time NFL teams have the best fight songs, and this one does not disappoint, but we still crown the Philadelphia Eagles the reigning champs in this department.
Touchdown we like audience interaction with the PA announder, and here in Chicago they have their own unique shtick. During a break in the action, the announcer says "There's a time out...". The fans respond, "Where!?". The announcer then replies "...on the field" to which the fans reply in unison, "ohhhhhh..." Corny??? Nahhhh!!! Cool??? Hell yeah!
Extra Point Add Soldier Field to the list of places that we have witnessed a football game in miserably cold and rainy conditions......fortunately on this day we sat underneath the overhang on a level called the "media deck", and all those schmucks who paid triple digits to sit in the upper deck club seats had nothing to shield them from the elements.....heh heh heh, SUCKERS!
When we step into a new stadium our expectations always run high... heck they spent over $600MM to redo this place, but compared to the other NFL venues which have recently opened their doors, this one sits at the bottom of the pack. First, the positives... a stunningly beautiful lakefront Park District, and the stadium complements this area nicely. Second, the modern futuristic design of the new stadium meshes very nicely with the old colonnades. And the mementoes, flags and monuments which give Soldier Field its name are presented very nicely. Offsetting all this is the lack of variety of concession items, the horrendous washroom lines, the difficult parking situation. These are all things that enhance the fan experience on game day, and quite honestly, there are better options at other venues in the NFL. Soldier Field is nice, it's new, and the atmosphere is great... their fans are loud and passionate about their team, even where onfield results have been mediocre at best in recent years. What they need here is a total review of their point of sale facilities... not a good sign for a stadium which just reopened their doors.
May 28, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says the city has the right to charge amusement taxes on the resale of seat licenses for Chicago Bears games. The city has sent out about 2,900 letters asking sellers for information and telling them they might owe taxes. Five license holders have filed a lawsuit against the effort. According to the city's letters, the person who would pay the amusement tax would be the buyer, not the seller who made the profit. In some cases, the value of the PSLs rose to more than $30,000 per seat. The Bears initially sold them for between $900 and $10,000.
The amount of the tax has risen from 7 percent to 9 percent since the Bears first sold the PSLs prior to the 2003 season. The Bears paid taxes on the original sale.
EMANUEL CRITICAL OF SOLDIER FIELD BONDS
December 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Chicago, Ill. - Chicago taxpayers are "not an ATM machine" and they cannot afford to be the
financial backstop for Soldier Field bonds whenever the hotel tax falls short of rosy growth assumed a decade ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Sun Times.
Chicago's share of the state income tax was docked by $1.1 million because the 2 percent hotel tax increase that helped finance the Soldier Field renovation fell short of the 5.5 percent annual growth needed to retire the $400 million debt.
That's on top of the $5 million-a-year contribution Chicago taxpayers had already made.
The newspaper said "that appears to be part of the reason why Emanuel ordered a housecleaning at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority that swept out former Mayor Richard M. Daley's nephew and two other city members."
"I want a healthy industry ... in the sports area. It's part of the entertainment and part of the quality of life in the city. But I also want the taxpayers represented. I want their voices heard at the table. ... I don't want the taxpayers of the city of Chicago to be treated as if they're just an ATM machine. They're not," he said.
Ten years ago, the Soldier Field renovation nearly collapsed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 nearly ground the travel industry to a halt.
To salvage the deal, Daley pressured the Bears to permanently forfeit their right to sell corporate naming rights to Soldier Field and built in a two-year protection for Chicago taxpayers.
Under the original version, the state could keep a chunk of the city's share of the state income tax whenever the Chicago hotel tax failed to grow at an annual rate of 5 percent - enough to retire $399 million in stadium bonds.
The new version was restructured, with interest payments deferred, to make a local tax bailout unnecessary for two years. That gave the airline, convention and tourism industries an opportunity to rebound from the devastating losses they suffered in the wake of Sept. 11.
It also salvaged the stadium project and still let Daley avoid the politically untenable position of putting Chicago taxpayers on the hook for the Bears at the same time he was raising taxes to finance more pressing needs.
The assumptions worked - until this year. But unless Emanuel's new appointees refinance or somehow restructure the deal, the Sun Times said there's no guarantee that Chicago taxpayers won't be on the hook again.
The housecleaning swept out Peter Q. Thompson, Daley's nephew, along with banker Alvin Boutte and attorney William Power.