CHICAGO-After Sept. 11, the Bears’ selling naming rights to a renovated Soldier Field became out of the question. Team officials have conceded that, announcing it would take a potential $300-million hit in order to allow the approximately $600-million project move forward.

“Soldier Field is the only name for this stadium,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said at a joint press conference. “Soldier Field will always be.”

Veterans groups had strongly objected to the selling of naming rights for the lakefront stadium named in honor of World War I veterans. Daley had threatened to pull the plug on the project, which will require the team to play its home games Downstate at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for two seasons, if it persisted in pushing to sell naming rights. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority will start selling $399 million in bonds this week.

“At a time when all of America is making sacrifices, we believe that dropping the naming rights on Soldier Field is the right thing to do for everybody,” says Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips.

However, whether the Bears could find a corporation willing to take the potential public relations hit also became a hot question here in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC.

The bonds are expected to be paid off by the city’s hotel-motel tax, which already is being tapped to pay down the debt for the $135-million new Comiskey Park that opened in 1991. However, the loan deal was restructured to allow for interest-only terms the first two years. Although the tourism industry has suffered during the last two weeks, Daley expressed confidence the financing plan will work.

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