The legislature has approved funding, but there's still time for MPC to seek improvements to the new Bears stadium at Soldier Field.
The General Assembly approved a public-private financing package Nov. 30 for the proposed $587 million Chicago Bears stadium at Soldier Field.
But MPC has only just begun to evaluate the physical plan and can be relied upon to recommend several changes.
MPC's Board of Governors received an early briefing at their regular luncheon meeting on Dec. 15 at the Westin River North Hotel. The stadium plan was presented by a Dirk Lohan of Lohan & Associates, the Bears' lead architect, and by David Doig, general superintendant of the Chicago Park District.
Lohan said removal of the park district's McFetridge Drive headquarters and construction of a 2,500-car underground garage would help reclaim 19 acres of lakefront green space. He also said traffic congestion would be greatly relieved by construction of a new stadium interchange on Lake Shore Drive at 18th Street.
MPC had previously recommended the latter feature, but our Urban Development Committee is sure to raise numerous questions in the months ahead as the project goes before such public forums as the Park Board, Plan Commission and City Council.
Some questions are obvious: How will a 2,500-car garage prevent the museum campus from being swamped by Bears-bound cars on football Sundays? How many other mega-events might the park district schedule into the new facility, thereby disrupting the museums? Why isn't anyone planning a high-capacity transit link (aka: circulator) linking the stadium to the West Loop Metra stations—an amenity that might persuade suburban Bears fans to leave their cars at home? And what of the new stadium design, which seems so out-of-scale and out-of-style with the classical Soldier Field walls and colonnades that will surround it?
One analytical tool available to MPC, and to the public, is a list of guidelines developed several years ago in response to a previous stadium plan for the South Loop lakefront. The legislature's quick approval of the funding package renders moot some of these points, but others still have currency.
MPC's Stadium Rules-of-the-Game:
An open planning and review process must be used for any stadium plans.
- The process should include business and civic groups who express their concerns but also residents of the community in which the stadium is located.
- Design of a stadium must be reviewed publicly to insure that Chicago ends up with a facility that is commensurate with our long history of high quality architecture.
Stadium plans must be devised to maximize public benefits.
- If the plan calls for the building of a new stadium, it must also have provisions for the re-use of Soldier Field. Soldier Field re-use should be partially addressed by the developers of a new stadium.
- Construction or redevelopment of a stadium must be tied in with economic development plans for the surrounding area to maximize spin-off effects. Stadiums are financial losers in and of themselves, which is why there must be synergy with other uses.
The burden of funding a stadium must be spread equitably among all interested parties.
- It is unrealistic to expect a stadium to be built without some public funding. (If only for surrounding infrastructure.) However, the tax burden should be spread fairly throughout the region.
- A large amount of the cost must be borne by the private entities that will ultimately benefit.
Stadium must have transportation links and sufficient parking.
- No additional lakefront parkland should be used for parking.
- Stadium must be accessible using public transportation. The more modes that access the site, the better.
- Stadium must have adequate expressway access.
- Stadium must have adequate parking and not interfere with neighborhood parking needs.
What do MPC Web site visitors think of the new Bears stadium? Check out the results of the Jan. Instant Poll.