Temporary Stadium Keys Chicago’s Olympic Bid

Published June 1, 2007

A plan for construction of a temporary stadium was central to Chicago’s winning bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Chicago’s U.S. rival was Los Angeles. The winning U.S. city is in competition with cities in several other countries to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Soldier Field Too Small

The need for a stadium able to seat 80,000 persons arose after Olympic officials told Chicago officials that Soldier Field, home of the National Football League Chicago Bears, was too small for the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies. Renovations of the lakefront stadium were completed in 2003 at a cost of almost $700 million.

The failure to build International Olympic Committee (IOC)-mandated facilities defeated New York’s plans for the 2012 Games and eliminated San Francisco for 2016.

The stadium has to be temporary because the IOC does not allow its revenues, which will help fund the stadium, to be used for permanent facilities.

There is also a public relations reason for the stadium being presented as temporary: The proposed stadium’s site, Washington Park, is considered an historical and landscape treasure. To overcome public resistance, the city designed a temporary facility that would be torn down after the Games and replaced by a $50 million open-air amphitheater for concerts and cultural and sporting events, with seating for 5,000.

In just a few months, the publicly discussed cost of the package of stadiums rose to $366 million from the original $300 million estimate.

Dennis Byrne