CHICAGO – Illinois lawmakers have approved spending several hundred million dollars in tax money for the renovation of Soldier Field, home stadium of the Chicago Bears, located just south of the CBD near Lake Michigan. The Illinois Senate approved the plan 33-24, while the state House of Representatives signed off on it the same day with a 64-51 vote. Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who supports the measure, is expected to sign it without delay.

All together, Soldier Field will receive $587 million in renovations that would also add new parkland and auto parking at nearby institutions, such as the Field Museum of Natural History. The facade and exterior of the stadium, long associated with Chicago, would remain, but most of the interior would be gutted and rebuilt. The measure does not give any ownership interest in the stadium to the team; it will remain property of the Chicago Park District.

The tax money in question to pay for the project would come from an existing hotel tax. The fact that no new taxes need to be collected was a major selling point among the solons in Springfield. “I’ve been here 26 years and every time I voted for something for Chicago it always costs a lot of money,” Sen. Vince Demizio from Downstate Illinois was reported to say. “Finally, we do something for the city was doesn’t cost us anything.”

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