The Museum Campus Working Group and Mayor Lightfoot have released the “Where Worlds Connect” report, detailing a set of recommendations for activating the Museum Campus. The report is a culmination of an effort to reimagine the Museum Campus that Lightfoot announced back in February. The campus encompasses institutions like Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, Soldier Field, the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place, 12th Street Beach, and Northerly Island.
Presenting a set of recommendations in the report, the potentially most noteworthy of the recommendations is the transformation of Soldier Field into a state-of-the-art facility through potentially adding a dome, updating the seating configuration, and exploring advertising and sponsorship opportunities that may lead to a naming rights deal for the stadium. A new amphitheater would be located at the north end of the stadium while a new gameday plaza would be placed along the east side of the stadium. The report also suggests revisiting the adaptive reuse of the Lakeside Center.
To create a reactivated campus, suggestions include turning Solidarity Drive into a year-round plaza and incorporating large-scale art onto the grounds. The report also calls for a unification through native landscaping across the campus, alongside a restoration of Northerly Island. As part of making Northerly Island a resilient, sustainable ecological oasis, the Northerly Island terminal building would be adaptively reused as the Great Lakes Climate Lab.
Multiple considerations are included for improving access throughout the campus including an iconic new pedestrian bridge reaching over Burnham Harbor to create a better connection to Northerly Island. Other recommendations include an expansion of pedestrian, bike, and water-based connectivity indicating an intent of connecting better to bike trails, improving circulation on site and expanding water taxi service. New access over the Metra Weldon Yard complex is also under consideration. On a policy side, the report calls for the reinstatement of a free or low-cost shuttle to the campus and improved CTA bus service.
As the Chicago Bears eye their potential move to Arlington Heights, questions circled whether these recommendations could be enough to entice the Chicago Bears to stay inside city limits and keep Soldier Field as their home. As recently reported by the Daily Herald, the Chicago Bears have released a statement that,” The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract.”
The Bears have entered into a $197.2 million purchase agreement for the Arlington Heights property, but the deal isn’t expected to close until early 2023. The team's lease at Soldier Field lasts until 2033 but could leave as early as 2026 by paying an $84 million fine.