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Quinn on Soldier Field expansion: 'It just ain't gonna work'

The governor believes it’s third and long for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s dream of hosting a Super Bowl in Chicago.

Gov. Pat Quinn said during a radio appearance this morning that he doubts football’s biggest game will ever be played here. His prediction comes a week after Bears Chairman George McCaskey indicated the city did not meet the criteria for hosting the event.

“I don’t think it’s realistic,” Quinn told the Kap and Haugh show on WGWG-FM 87.7
Instead, the governor suggested the city make a bid to host the NCAA Final Four championship, which will be played this weekend in Dallas.

“So we don’t have a Super Bowl,” he said. “We should have a Final Four. That would be good to have at the United Center. I don’t know why we don’t.”

Though Chicago exceeds the number of hotel rooms needed to bid on the Super Bowl, it does not meet the temperature conditions or seating capacity to hold the event. Soldier Field currently has 61,500 seats, decidedly short of the 70,000 required by the NFL.

This year's Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., was the first in an open-air stadium in a cold-weather city. The NFL granted a waiver for the temperature requirement, and more than 82,000 people filled MetLife Stadium to see the Seahawks trounce the Broncos.

After the game, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Tribune he was mulling a stadium expansion in order to make Chicago eligible for hosting the championship and to glean more revenue from the lakefront venue.

It's unclear how much adding the seats would cost, or how it would be paid for. Moody's recently downgraded the city’s credit rating, which would make borrowing money more expensive.

“We have serious financial challenges,” Quinn said. “Changing Soldier Field, making it bigger? It just ain’t gonna work.”

Soldier Field’s current capacity is the second-smallest of all NFL stadiums. A major renovation opened in 2003 decreased the number of seats by  roughly 5,000. The project cost about $690 million and a Tribune analysis estimated the public portion totaled $432 million.

sstclair@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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