The Bears are positioned for a future relocation from downtown Chicago to the suburb of Arlington Heights in order to build a new “world-class” stadium. But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing the city make its own renovations to keep the team in town. A mayoral committee is set to recommend Chicago “explore the feasibility” of adding a dome to Soldier Field, the Bears’ longtime open-air stadium, along with other significant updates to the historic venue, per Crain’s Chicago Business.
Lightfoot has openly floated the idea of enclosing Soldier Field before, most recently in February. But her Lakefront Museum Campus Working Group, established to recommend strategic investments to Chicago’s lakefront landmarks, is now expected to formally propose Soldier Field improvements. This would include rebuilding parts of the nearly 100-year-old stadium and potentially selling or granting naming rights to the venue, which has been home to the Bears since 1971.
A dome, meanwhile, would likely require taxpayer contributions, per Crain’s, with costs estimated between $400 million to $1.5 billion. The most recent NFL stadiums to open with enclosed roofing include the Chargers‘ and Rams‘ SoFi Stadium in California, which reportedly cost more than $5 billion; and the Raiders‘ Allegiant Stadium in Nevada, costing approximately $1.9 billion.
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The Bears can exit their Soldier Field lease in 2026, and the team last fall finalized a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse, a 326-acre property in Arlington Heights, with eyes on construction of an entirely new complex. Last renovated in 2002, Soldier Field is an iconic destination among NFL venues because of its history, but it also has the smallest capacity (61,500) of any current stadium. The Arlington Heights area would conceivably also give the Bears room to expand their stadium into a multipurpose entertainment complex.