When I picked up my copy of the Chicago Tribune this morning, I had to check to see if it was April Fools Day. There on the front page, above the fold, was an article about Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s plan to build a new $1 billion dollar domed stadium in Chicago. Among other things, Daley covets a second NFL team for Chicago, the 2016 Olympic Games, the Final Four, the Super Bowl, and a partridge in a pear tree. According to Daley’s logic, a shiny new 80,000 seat domed stadium, perhaps built near the University of Illinois-Chicago Campus, will help to shower the Windy City with all these events.
For those with short attention spans, Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, underwent a $365 million dollar publicly financed renovation in 2002. But someone forgot to enlarge Soldier Field and build a roof during the renovation. Its 61,500 seat capacity is second smallest in the NFL, and too small to host the opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics.
Daley’s plan appears to have a few minor flaws. First, the expansion is news to the NFL, which currently has zero franchises in mega media market Los Angeles and the itinerant Saints franchise to deal with. Second, the plan appears to also be news to the Bears, who might have a vested interest in maintaining a monopoly in the Chicago market. Note to hizzonor: next time check the NFL expansion regs before making plans to acquire a new football franchise.
Of course, part of the justification for this new stadium is – wait for it – a fountain of economic benefits flowing from the proposed facility. According to one of the mayor’s aids, among the expected economic benefits flowing from the new stadium would be “thousands of new jobs and new infrastructure.” Unfortunately, there is not one shred of evidence that sports facilities generate tangible net economic benefits like more jobs.