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Chicago launches proposal to convert Soldier Field into a 21st century stadium

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot presented three proposals Monday to remodel the legendary Soldier Field in an attempt to convince the Chicago Bears to stay in the stadium that has been their home for the past 50 years.

The proposal revolves around converting it into an indoor stadium, with an estimated cost between $900 million and $2.2 billion.

The three proposals for remodeling Soldier Field

a) Completely enclose the stadium, with a total reconstruction of both end zones with columns that can support the structure.

b) Have the head end zones rebuilt with columns to make the stadium ready for a dome to be installed at a later date.

c) Convert Soldier Field into a multi-purpose stadium that can host soccer games and with the potential to become a viable venue for concerts and a wide range of events.

"An improved Soldier Field will deliver a world-class visitor experience," said Lori Lightfoot. "In addition, any of these proposed renovations would allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come, as these changes will allow us to continue to bring sports, music and other exciting events to our city."

The proposal also calls for increasing the attendance capacity from 61,500 to 70,000 fans. The number of boxes could increase from 133 to 140 and quadruple the food and beverage space from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet. The release also said the proposal would "dramatically expand the opportunity for naming rights and sponsorship opportunities."

Are the Bears moving in?

In September, the Bears threatened to leave Soldier Field by signing a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement with Churchill Downs Inc. for a 326-acre site, Arlington Park, in the suburb of Arlington Heights, a track where horse racing has been held since 1927 and was put up for sale. The site is located about 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field.

According to a statement issued by the Bears this month, the Arlington Park site is the only site the team is considering for a new stadium.

"As part of our mutual agreement with the owner of that property, we are not pursuing alternate stadium or venue arrangements, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we remain under contract. We have informed the City of Chicago that we intend to honor our contractual commitments, while continuing to work and conduct pre-development activity on the Arlington Heights property. In the meantime, we remain committed to honoring our Operating Agreement at Soldier Field," the Bears said.

Despite the proposal, the Bears reiterated Monday that they stand by their previous statement in response to Mayor Lightfoot's proposal.

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