SBD/March 5, 2014/Facilities

Soldier Field Expansion In Exploration Stage As Chicago Looks To Boost Super Bowl Bid

Soldier Field would need to add 8,500 seats to meet the Super Bowl minimum of 70,000
The Chicago Park District is "exploring the possibility of expanding Soldier Field by 5,000 seats to bolster Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s long-shot bid to host the Super Bowl and, more importantly, to increase seating capacity for other revenue-generating events," according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Emanuel said of Soldier Field's seating capacity of 61,500 for football and 63,500 for other events, "We are fighting below our weight class. That's the way I would look at it." He added, "I know everybody looks at the Super Bowl. But, look at this hockey event (between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins), which we started last year with college hockey. You look at two years ago when we had the Mexican soccer team here. We have Liverpool coming. These things not only sell out. They sell out fast. And it’s clear that you could do more, given these super events and they would be self-financing and self-sustaining.” Emanuel said that it is "too soon to say how much the expansion would cost or how it would be financed." Park District General Superintendent & CEO Michael Kelly said that the district and the Bears have had a "series of meetings" about a "jointly-financed expansion that would add 5,000 seats to the stadium’s top ring similar to the seamless expansion at Notre Dame." Spielman notes Soldier Field would need to add 8,500 seats "to reach the NFL’s 70,000-seat Super Bowl minimum." But Kelly said, "We're very limited with our capacity. ... We're gonna try to squeeze as many seats as we can in. But, we're still very preliminary in discussions with the Bears on both engineering and architectural studies" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/5). Emanuel's Dir of Communications Sarah Hamilton said, "It's an exploration to see what, if anything, is possible." In Chicago, John Byrne notes both sides are "simply looking into whether this is something they want to pursue" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/5).
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