Bob Dunn of Landmark Development emerged with a key role in the reformation of Soldier Field.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced possibly her team’s most valuable player to improving Soldier Field on Monday, revealing her broad vision to keep the Chicago Bears in the city.

He is Bob Dunn, a real estate developer uniquely suited for the job. He has a vested interest in keeping Soldier Field viable as he wants to build a $20 billion high-rise community alongside it, with a transit hub to serve people of the future.

But as president of Landmark Development, Dunn also has extensive experience building NFL stadiums. He has been part of the group behind new homes for each of the Bears’ rivals in the NFC North, as well as New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, where the New York Giants and Jets play.

During his Soldier Field announcement, Lightfoot gave Dunn the podium to speak for 15 minutes about the prospect of dominating Soldier Field and expanding his potential to become one of the NFL’s best. His company produced renderings to demonstrate the potential of the lightfoot.

Dunn faced naysayers, including architects and engineers, who said Soldier Field could not be domed at a reasonable cost. He said his approach would use “four supercolumns” to support a dome over the existing structure. Dunn described the technique as a hybrid of the designs used for Ford Field in Detroit, home of the Lions, and the Vikings’ US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“Working within the confines of this building as we know it today, Soldier Field could turn into a dome,” Dunn said. He said the result would be a “Chicago-centric,” appealing to fans and the NFL’s TV audience, rather than a one-and-done stadium.

“The real value is when you create a specific asset of a unique character,” he said. It marked his direct pitch to Lightfoot’s most important audience, the Bears franchise, on Monday.

The team has signed an agreement to purchase the former Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights and is exploring options there, but has made no commitment to relocate.

Land is available to add amenities to Soldier Field, such as expanded seating and more space for food, beverage and retail, Dunn said. That adds more revenue and increases the value of the Bears franchise over time, he said. Forbes estimates that the team is worth $4 billion.

Relying on estimates from Dunn’s firm, Lightfoot said the dome could add up to $2.2 billion. Although funding options were not discussed in detail, Dunn said renovating Soldier Field would be “substantially less expensive” than a new stadium in Arlington Heights.

The $2.2 billion estimate is in line with the cost of some recent NFL stadiums, although inflation and rising interest rates have hit the construction sector hard since those projects were completed.

Dunn’s spokesman said he was not paid to help the city with Soldier Field. Dunn was not available for a one-on-one interview.

His involvement with the stadium is not charity. Whether for football, Chicago Fire soccer games or other events, he needs people to keep coming to Soldier Field. That would help make the case for a major state-subsidized transit hub for its One Central development, which would cover about 32 acres, mostly on a platform above the Metra electric rail lines.

The project, which calls for 9,000 residences, has drawn a lukewarm response from Lightfoot, potential neighbors and Gov. JB Pritzker. The governor supported legislation authorizing the state to join the partnership with Dunn but declined to move forward.

Asked Monday if his feelings about One Central had softened, Lightfoot again thanked Dunn for his Soldier Field work but said: “I don’t want to go on”.

A rendering of a portion of the proposed One Central development, which would be built over railroad tracks west of Soldier Field. The West Grandstand of the stadium is visible on the right.

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