Gov: State financial aid for Soldier Field revamp not 'realistic'

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Gov. Pat Quinn Monday scotched the idea of any state financial involvement in the Chicago Park District’s potential 5,000-seat expansion of Soldier Field, a plan being studied by the city in order to boost Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s long-shot bid of hosting a Super Bowl.

“I don’t think it’s realistic,” Quinn said during a Monday morning appearance on WGWG-FM when asked about the chances of upgrading the stadium.

Pressed specifically on the idea of a dome on the stadium, Quinn said, “They should’ve done that when they came up with the idea of Soldier. They actually made it smaller.

“And I really don’t see that on the horizon. We have serious financial challenges. You know, changing Soldier Field, making it bigger, it just ain’t going to work,” Quinn continued. “I don’t think so.”

Emanuel disclosed his interest in expanding the size of the home of the Chicago Bears — now the smallest stadium in the NFL — during an interview earlier this month with Chicago Sun-Times city hall reporter Fran Spielman.

“We are fighting below our weight class. That’s the way I would look at it. We capped ourselves” with a capacity of 61,500 for football and 63,500 for other events, Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel, who pitched the idea of the city hosting a Super Bowl during a June 2012 meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, wouldn’t say how much the expansion might cost or how it would be paid for.

“That’s why we call it exploring. Not we decided. Everything I do in every department is about exploring and asking, `Can we do something better?’.… [Park District Supt. Michael Kelly] brought this up and I said, `Keep asking questions. Keep looking at it.’ “

The stadium underwent a $587 million overhaul more than a decade ago in a public-private partnership that involved the Bears and the park district. The team ponied up $200 million from the sale of personal seat licenses and an NFL loan. The city’s $387 million share came from hotel tax revenues.

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