Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot created a working group charged with finding new uses for the 57-acre lakeside museum campus, including Soldier Field, in another sign it may soon lose its main tenant, the Chicago Bears, to the suburbs.
The 23-person group, chaired by Mesirow CEO Richard Price, is expected to provide a set of recommendations by this summer aimed at drawing year-round tourism, according to Crain’s.
Soldier Field is a 61,500-seat lakeside stadium that’s part of the campus. The Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and McCormick Place are all part of the campus as well.
“In order to maximize the benefits of its valuable assets, as well as address larger issues about the campus, recommendations from dedicated and talented community leaders are absolutely necessary,” the mayor said in a statement, according to Crain’s.
The Bears are considering a move to a 326-acre former racetrack site in Arlington Heights and in September signed a purchase agreement for the locale. Breaking the team’s lease at Soldier Field, which runs through 2033, could cost the team $84 million. The team’s final decision won’t be known at least until the escrow on the Arlington Heights site closes sometime early next year. The team does not have a representative on the working group, according to Crain’s.
Pending casino bids represent another high profile issue for the group to consider. Rivers Casino has proposed one at Lakeside Center, Bailey’s proposal would put one at McCromick’s Place and Hard Rock has proposed a casino near Lake Shore Drive.
Cabrera Capital CEO Martin Cabrera will serve as the group’s athletic facilities lead, Metropolitan Planning Council CEO Darlene Hightower will be transit access lead, Openlands CEO GErald Adelmann will be space and recreation lead and Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner Michelle T. Boone will be cultural amenities lead. The group will work with city departments and local aldermen.
[Crain’s] — Harrison Connery