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Did Chicago botch Super Bowl chances with McDome fiasco?

1 critic blames politicians for scuttling plans for large multi-use stadium

Fred Mitchell

6:50 PM CDT, June 15, 2012

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Most longtime Bears fans think their team should have won more than one Super Bowl by now.

Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm SportsCorp Ltd., tells me Chicago should have been host to multiple Super Bowls by now if the idea of a domed stadium hadn't been treated like a political football.

"Had Chicago and Illinois built the McDome (in 1996), the original domed stadium planned for next to McCormick Place, I suspect we would have had at least two Super Bowls already," Ganis said.

"It was extremely short-sighted; it was extremely narrow focus. … It would have cost (less than what it eventually) cost simply to upgrade Soldier Field. It would have been a terrific financial and tourism boost for the city."

The reported estimated cost was $500 million. The cost for renovating Soldier Field in 2002-03 was $680 million, according to Ganis, and the capacity was reduced to a league-low 61,500. A domed stadium also might have attracted NCAA Final Fours and other events of national significance.

"You have a Republican governor (James Edgar) and a Democratic mayor (Richard M. Daley). (They) didn't always see eye-to-eye, especially on McCormick Place," Ganis said. "There was always this issue that McCormick Place was jointly controlled (by the city and state), but the park district was controlled by City Hall entirely. That turf battle was the key reason the McDome plan didn't go forward."

Ganis said he spoke to NFL officials last month about the feasibility of Chicago being host to a Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLVIII will be at MetLife Stadium (capacity 82,566) in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2, 2014.

"The capacity is a big issue … so whenever they go (down to around 70,000 capacity) it is a real problem," Ganis said.

I asked Ganis, who has been involved in many projects, such as the new Yankee Stadium, about the feasibility of expanding Soldier Field to accommodate a Super Bowl.

"Very expensive, but with enough money, anything is do-able," he said. "The problem of increasing the capacity is that one of the strengths of Soldier Field is its intimacy. It's great for Bears fans who go to the games. But because of the compactness … the columns being where they are, the scoreboards in the two end zones, it leaves very little space for even temporary seating expansion.

"If New York goes very well, then I think the league will be open to looking at more (Northern) open-air Super Bowls. My guess is Washington (would be next) with a stadium that could be 100,000-plus seats, 300-plus suites.

"(A Super Bowl) would be great for Chicago," Ganis said. "I travel internationally a great deal (for business) and when people see Chicago, they are impressed by it. So what Chicago needs is visibility."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked during a recent visit to our city about the possibility of Chicago being host to a Super Bowl.

"Let us get to the point of submitting a bid and taking a look to see what needs to get done to make it a winning bid," Goodell said.

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34