Daley Unveils Plan For Domed Stadium at Soldier Field
Sep. 13, 1996
CHICAGO (AP) _ Mayor Richard M. Daley on Friday unveiled a surprise plan for a $395 million conversion of Soldier Field that would add a retractable dome over the stadium where the Chicago Bears play.
Daley previewed his plan for Gov. Jim Edgar and Bears President Michael McCaskey just hours before presenting it publicly. He said it was aimed at resolving the often bitter differences the three men have had on a new stadium.
Both Edgar and McCaskey said they needed to examine the plan more closely, but their responses suggested that for the first time the three men have found some common ground. No timetable was set for the plan; construction would take three years during off-seasons.
``I'm more than willing to take a look at his proposal and see if it's doable and he's indicated he's willing to take a look at other options, too,'' Edgar said.
In February, Edgar proposed a $465 million project that would add a 72,000-seat domed stadium and expand McCormick Place. The plan got a cold shoulder from McCaskey and Daley.
Last year, Edgar and McCaskey rejected Daley's proposal to renovate the stadium. This plan is essentially the same, with a few major additions. The centerpiece is a dome, made of steel and translucent plastic, that would slide over the top of the grass playing field in bad weather.
Daley and construction officials said there is no other retractable roof like it in sports stadiums.
The dome would also turn the stadium into an enclosed, climate-controlled facility for conventions and other events, such as college basketball's Final Four tournament. Enclosed walkways would connect the stadium with the McCormick Place convention center on the Lake Michigan waterfront.
Daley said the renovation would be financed with $175 million from the Bears, $160 million in taxes on hotel stays and restaurant meals in Chicago, and $60 million from Soldier Field revenue bonds. Ticket sales and other revenue from Bears games would pay off the bonds and the Bears' portion of the funding.
The Bears' lease at Soldier Field expires after the 1999 season, and McCaskey has threatened to leave Chicago after that if the aging stadium isn't replaced.
McCaskey said Daley's plan would ``create a new place for Bear fans to see Bear football games, a place that would carry us into the next century, and that would be truly multi-functional ... there would be other things that could be done there as well, and help pay for it.''
Of course, the plan would mean higher ticket prices, but nobody was offering specifics Friday. The Bears could ask for more money since they will be offering protection to fans in bad weather, a Daley aide suggested.
But some fans aren't sure they want a new roof to shut out traditional Bears weather: cold, wet and windy.
``I think, stick with tradition, you know don't put a dome on top of it,'' said Steve Barry, a passerby outside City Hall. ``Bear fans are Bear fans, they're going to be out there regardless if it's a dome or not.''
But the retractable dome idea is popular among team owners. In Houston Friday, Astros owner Drayton McLane said that he will ask baseball owners for permission to negotiate with potential buyers if county officials don't agree with his demands to get out of his lease at the Astrodome.
The Houston Chronicle reported Friday that McLane wants about $20 million for the lease to help him bridge an interim period while he waits for a $265 million, 42,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof to be built downtown.