Stadium Naming Rights

LAKE FOREST _ The Bears could face a battle if they try to sell corporate naming rights to the new Soldier Field. ``No company is going to buy the naming rights to Soldier Field. It's out of the question,'' Chicago major Richard Daley said Tuesday. ``It's always going to be Soldier Field, it's not going to be John Jones Soldier Field.

   ``We gave (the Bears) an option. Someone could sponsor (the renovation), rightfully sponsor it, but not change the name."

  Bears president Ted Phillips on Tuesday did not want to discuss the possibility of changing the name from Soldier Field amid a surge in patriotism resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

   ``I don't feel it's the right time or the place to discuss the naming rights situation,'' Phillips said at Halas Hall.

   Asked if he meant the team would not be discussing the situation with potential sponsors or that he wouldn't talk about it in public, Phillips said, ``This is not the time to make a comment on it.''

    Although the Bears do have rights to sell the name through an understanding with the city, park district officials claim the park board must ultimately approve such a name change. Whether they would do this without Daley's support is doubtful at best.

   Phillips said Tuesday he hadn't heard the mayor's comments, but the Bears are still going ahead for plans to play elsewhere in 2002 while the stadium is built.

   ``What I can tell you is this project is a positive project for the city and it's something that we need at this time,'' Phillips said. ``It's going to bring economic development, it's going to bring jobs. It's going to bring $140 million for minority-  and women-owned businesses.

   ``It's a great project. It's a great project for Chicago, it's great for the Bears, it's great for the lakefront.''

   Stadium funding remains a question. The stadium is to be funded by $399 million in bonds paid for largely by the city's 2 percent hotel tax. The city is examining whether there will be enough hotel tax money available for this purpose after tourism slumps caused by the terrorist attacks.

   Phillips said there is no danger the bonds will fail to sell amid new economic uncertainty.

   ``The bonds are insured with a Triple-A rating, the best rating you can have,'' Phillips said. ``So from the bond holder standpoint there's absolutely no risk.''

   He said a conference call Monday with potential investors indicated no drop in their level of interest.

   The Bears' president also reiterated earlier statements that the stadium would be done in time for the Sept. 21, 2003 opening even though this Bears' season will now end in January due to rescheduling of last week's  games.

   The construction schedule was based on a January 20 start even though the NFL gave the Bears some extra time by scheduling the regular-season home finale for Dec. 16.  The old schedule merely would have given the Bears an extra month ``to float,'' according to Phillips.

    Phillips said a Jan. 20 starting point still gives the project 20 months of construction, which is all that's required.

    ``Now, who would have guessed that a national tragedy would have occurred that caused games to be postponed,'' he said. ``Because of that we're now looking at a home game Jan. 6, which still gives them -- unless we host a playoff game or conference championship -- two more (extra) weeks of cushion.''

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