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Illinois lawmakers may decide if Chicago Bears get public dollars for a new stadium

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(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield this week to resume the spring session, and the Chicago Bears could be on the agenda.

The Bears unveiled a nearly $5 billion proposal for an enclosed stadium and the NFL team is asking for public funding to help make it happen. The plan calls for $3.2 billion for a new stadium plus an additional $1.5 in infrastructure.

“We have the most vivid downtown architectural design, and this affords us the opportunity to be able to bring this all together in the greatest city on the planet,” Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said during the unveiling earlier this week.

Warren said the team would ask state lawmakers to act before the spring legislative session ends ahead of Memorial Day, warning that costs will only escalate.

The Bears are pledging more than $2 billion for the stadium, a commitment they say is bigger than any other public-private project in the country. The team would need a hefty sum for infrastructure work that the Illinois General Assembly and governor would have to approve.

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs said there may be bigger priorities for lawmakers.

“It would be nice if they could do this but there are trade-offs,” said Frerichs. “There are things like investments in our schools, in housing, in our infrastructure that also need those dollars, and legislators will have to weigh those costs.”

The Bears said the project, which would be located next to Soldier Field, would generate $8 billion in economic impact for the region.

Congressman Danny Davis said it is important to do everything necessary to keep the Bears in the Windy City.

“Sports activity has become such an integral part of our economy and how we think of it and what we do about it,” said Davis. “I think it would be totally disastrous if the Bears were not in Chicago.”

The spring session of the legislature resumes Tuesday.