Chicago Should Include An Illinois Sportsbook To Proposed Soldier Field Renovations

Written By Matt Boecker on August 8, 2022
Soldier Field renovations should offer a retail sportsbook in Illinois

There has been an abundance of changes for the Chicago Bears this offseason.

First, they fired GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, and then hired Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus to fill the respective positions.

The Bears also traded away Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers.

But the City of Chicago and mayor Lori Lightfoot are working to make sure one thing that doesn’t change is the Bears calling Soldier Field home. The Bears have played there since 1971.

Recently, the city released details and mock photos of potential renovations to the historic stadium.

Each option depends on who the main residents of Soldier Field are because the Chicago Fire also calls it home and will remain there regardless of the Bears’ decision. This is important to note because, in September, the Bears signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington Park Racecourse.

This racecourse is located about 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field. The 326-acre property cost the team $197.2 million.

An Illinois sportsbook at Soldier Field should’ve been proposed

The popularity of sports betting is spreading like wildfire across the United States, and it’s especially taken off in the Land of Lincoln.

Last March, Illinois sports betting hit a single-month record of $971 million.

The Bears are already partnered with BetRivers Sportsbook, so the partnership aspect of the equation is already solved.

Plus, building a retail sportsbook outside of the stadium is perfectly legal, as the Chicago Cubs and DraftKings have already broken ground on a sportsbook outside Wrigley Field. It will have a capacity of 1,000 bettors and have both a walk-up counter to place bets and kiosks. This will be the first sportsbook built outside a Chicago sports venue.

Whether the Bears leave for Arlington Heights or stay on the lakefront, they would have a sportsbook outside the stadium if they go forward with this plan.

It would also be a welcomed plan for Rivers, as its recent proposal to build a casino in Chicago was passed on in favor of Bally’s casino.

3 options for Soldier Field renovations

  1. Rebuild each end zone with columns that can support a dome to fully enclose the stadium
  2. Reconstruct each end zone with columns so the stadium is dome ready
  3. Remodel Soldier Field into a multi-purpose stadium more suitable for soccer. And make it more flexible to house major concerts along with other events

The city is hopeful the Bears will opt to renovate Soldier Field and remain there rather than move to Arlington Heights. Chicago and the team have a lease that goes through 2033. If either party breaks the agreement, it will cost $84 million.

Proposed renovations to Soldier Field for the Bears

These are the highlights of the possible renovations the city laid out if the Bears chose to stay:

  • Fully enclosed dome
  • Up the seating capacity to 70,000 (the current capacity is 61,000, the lowest total of any NFL stadium)
  • Add seven additional suites, raising the total to 140
  • Build six major club and experiential areas; Soldier Field currently has none
  • Upgrade the food and beverage square footage from 50,000 to 200,000
  • Improve sponsorship opportunities and naming rights
  • Construct up to four event/multi-purpose areas with capacity ranging from 5,000 to 60,000+

One selling point the city has for the Bears to stay is that it could be more cost-effective to renovate Soldier Field rather than build an Arlington Heights stadium from scratch. Chicago estimates the renovation costs to range from $900 million to $2.2 billion.

For reference, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles opened in 2020 and cost $4.9 billion to build. And Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas also opened in 2020 and cost $1.9 billion to build.

Photo by Shutterstock/Richard Cavalleri
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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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