Illinois Budget Passes Without Bears Getting Stadium Money (For Now)

Bears stadium lakefront Manica rendering
Bears stadium lakefront Manica rendering

The Illinois state legislature passed a $53 billion budget to put a bow on the spring session, but did so without the Chicago Bears getting any public funding for their future stadium project at this time.

According to FOX-32 Chicago, budget highlights include:

  • $350 million in money for the state’s public schools
  • $200 million in new tax revenue generated from sports gambling
  • $526 million from putting a limit on how much money businesses can write off
  • And yet, nothing for the Bears stadium project.

    What gives?

    Senate President Don Harmon’s quote on the Bears’ situation makes sense of things:

    “There’s really no appetite to put public taxpayer dollars into sports stadiums benefiting billion dollar franchises, and to date, nobody has made a compelling argument why this is good for the city or good for the state, not just for the Bears or White Sox.”

    This tracks with what Governor J.B. Pritzker’s camp said at the start of May, calling the proposal a “non-starter.”

    There is no denying this team could use a new stadium. But making it happen isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. And because there isn’t a ton of public sentiment being drummed up for public money to go to building a pro sports stadium right now, there are going to be challenges in getting it done. Unless, of course, the Bears want to pay for everything themselves. Then I don’t imagine there will be much pushback on the matter. But because they have insisted on needing public funds while making their proposal for a Chicago stadium (and also in Arlington Heights), this won’t be an easy bridge to cross.

    Bears stadium lakefront Manica rendering
    (Screen shot via Chicago Bears You Tube)

    What is next for the Chicago Bears stadium project?

    For what it’s worth, today’s news wasn’t unexpected. Earlier in the week, it was reported that the Illinois legislature was putting the stadium proposal on the back burner before the end of spring session.

    In other words, the attempt from the Bears to extract tax dollars to help pay for the team’s stadium proposal was going to be tabled until fall. The team’s proposal has reportedly struggled to gain support in the house or senate. And while I’m no political scientist, I studied enough to know that you’re not going to get anything done if you’re doing nothing to gain traction in Congress. So it should come as no surprise that there is no movement on the Bears stadium front. The Bears simply aren’t doing anything to move the needle.

    But they did release a statement:

    “We look forward to continuing to meet with elected officials, community leaders, business leaders, residents and fans to collaborate on ways to make this massive economic development project for Illinois a reality.”

    If you’re looking for a silver lining, I suppose that the Bears now have the whole summer to mull things over. Perhaps the powers that be can use that time to make a case compelling enough to convince state politicians that the proposal would actually be good for the public. Good luck with that!

    written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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