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Bears Owners Roll Out Grotesque Stadium Plan With History’s Creepiest Launch Ceremony

The Chicago Bears held a press conference at Soldier Field Wednesday to launch a campaign for a new football stadium, built as the centerpiece of an ambitious and breathtakingly expensive lakefront development project. Is this proposal another dreaded public-private partnership? You're goddamn right it is, and a whopper of one: The McCaskey family intends to ask the state of Illinois for at least $2.4 billion in public financing, or approximately half of what they say it will cost to build a new domed stadium, to improve surrounding infrastructure, spruce up the surrounding neighborhood, and create what a hype video introduced by Bears team president Kevin Warren described as "a world-class destination for a world-class city."

This project, if approved by the Illinois General Assembly, would lap the next most expensive North American public subsidy of a sports arena in the history of the maneuver, and would make Ted Leonsis's recent, aborted Potomac Yard arena gambit in Virginia look like a Sunday trip to Sam's Club. Somewhat surprisingly, The American Prospect reported in July that public subsidies are actually "declining as a percentage of funding sources for stadiums and arenas" overall, but the raw numbers are skyrocketing, as arenas and stadiums get more ambitious and stadium projects increasingly expand to include elaborate surrounding entertainment districts. Nashville and the state of Tennessee forked over in 2023 a galling $1.3 billion in public financing for what will eventually become a new Titans stadium along the Cumberland River, half-again more than the state of New York handed over to the Pegulas in 2022 for the dubious privilege of continuing to host the Bills in Buffalo. Leonsis unsuccessfully asked Virginia to finance $1.6 billion of a $2 billion project to build up an arena funland for the creaky Capitals and the godawful Wizards, and eventually settled for something like $600 million in public financing as a payoff to stay at his team's perfectly serviceable home in Washington, D.C.

The $2.4 billion ask from the McCaskeys—which, disappointingly, came Wednesday with the ringing endorsement of Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson—is comparatively small as a percentage of the projected total cost of the project, but is in absolute terms fucking ludicrous. Getting this thing all the way across the finish line is going to take a lot of maneuvering, and possibly also a miracle. Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker, a member of Johnson's own damn party, said Wednesday that this stadium proposal is "not a high priority for legislators and certainly not for me," and said he was "skeptical" that the deal would be beneficial for taxpayers, per reporting from the Chicago Tribune. This appears to be another case of a proposal's proponents announcing the project without having done the legwork of establishing the necessary legislative support: Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Welch said with confidence that the financing proposal "would fail" if presented for a vote today.

You can sense some of the swirly-eyedness of the pitch in the oratorial excesses of those who made the announcement at the Soldier Field ceremony. "This is an incredibly, incredibly special day for the Chicago Bears, for the city of Chicago, for the state of Illinois, for our players, for our coaches, for our staff members, for the alumni, and for our incredible Chicago Bear fans," said Warren, whose pandering remarks were clearly written to maximally emphasize that the team's supporters should be grateful to have been presented with a can't-miss opportunity to collaborate with the Bears, by spending billions of dollars on a structure built for the exclusive purpose of hosting his bosses' property. "One of the things that I'm most excited about today," he continued, shamelessly, "is the fact that this shows that in this city we have the intellectual capabilities, we have the heart, we have the passion, we have the foresight, we have the wisdom, we have the vision, to do big things."

Warren continued:

It takes individuals in this room—ownership, leadership, elected officials—to dream big, to know what this city needs at this point in time. This is not an easy project, but Chicago doesn't like it easy. We like to do the difficult things. We like to do the things that resonate with people for generations to come. It's time for us to do something special together.

You'll hear a detailed presentation today, and there will be many people—whether you're here today, or watching online, or listening on the radio, or reading the newspapers—that may have questions. We expect that, but we embrace that, but I'm confident with the individuals in this room, in this city—our ownership, our elected officials, Mayor Johnson, individuals at the Chicago Bears—that we can come together to show the future generations that people can work together. That we can be collaborative. That we can figure things out together, that we can create win-win-win situations.


I'm going to set forth a challenge. We need to decide who we are, and where we want to go together. Who we are, and where we want to go together. And I am confident, after you see the presentation today, after we continue to communicate with you, answer all of your questions, that you'll recognize that we are the organization that George Halas dreamt that we would become: hardworking, honorable, with integrity, transparent, forward-thinking, wise; but most of all, collaborative.

Kevin Warren

But most of all: Willing and indeed eager to hand over money that might otherwise go to genuine public goods, for the purpose of building a football cathedral for the people who sign my paychecks.

You would not think there would be anything in this ceremony more skin-crawly than Warren's opening remarks, but here you would be wrong as hell. The first person to speak at Wednesday's event was not Warren or George McCaskey or Brandon Johnson, but was instead Reverend Dr. Charlie E. Dates, the 30-year-old pastor of Progressive Baptist Church (CORRECTION: Dates is 42 years old; he was 30 when appointed to the post), who led the room in a humdinger of an opening prayer.

Will you bow your heads and pray with me, please?

Gracious God in heaven, we thank you for today. A day that our city desperately needs your help with. We thank you because this is the day that you have made, so we're going to rejoice and be glad in it.

We need your help today as we make progress, and I want to thank you for our mayor, for raising up a young man with such a significant heart for our city. Thank you for the McCaskey family, thank you for Kevin [Warren]. And now we thank you for all of the people who will benefit by the Bears staying in Chicago. I don't know that you play football but I am asking you to help us, help us to win some games, help us to get a Super Bowl here, help us to play in the Super Bowl, and bring back the 1985 roaring, cheering fans we had, for your glory and for our good.

In a more serious note, for all the people who will work here, who will thrive here, who will come to experience significant family memories here, we give you glory and thanks. And if I've asked you for too little, I pray you do something even bigger than what I just asked you for, in your precious name. Let the church say "amen."

Charlie Dates

Wow, imagine an even bigger divine intervention than afflicting the people of Illinois with the compulsion to buy the McCaskeys a football stadium.

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