By John Byrne
8:41 PM EST, February 8, 2013
The company that manages Soldier Field, including maintaining the condition of the turf at the Bears’ lakefront home, is in line for a new 10-year deal, the Chicago Park District announced Friday evening.
A Park District panel set up to evaluate bids from two companies vying for a contract to run Soldier Field and other park facilities will recommend to commissioners Wednesday that SMG retain the work, according to a news release.
SMG manages eight stadiums, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Louisiana, wherelast weekend’s Super Bowl was delayed after a power outage. On Friday, the power company in New Orleans said the outage was caused by a problem with a piece of relay equipment outside the stadium.
SMG has managed Soldier Field since 1994, and is known to Bears fans for disputes over the quality of the grass at the stadium. In August 2011, the team canceled its annual Family Fest practice event because SMG workers hadn’t watered the grass sufficiently and the turf pulled apart in the late summer heat.
At the time, Park District officials noted that SMG’s past performance would be taken into account when its contract ran out.
SMG’s bid will be recommended to the board over that of AEG, the sports facility company perhaps best known for running STAPLES Center and its adjoining entertainment complex in Los Angeles.
Park District commissioners, who are appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, could opt to ignore the recommendation of the contract evaluation committee, which is made up of employees from various district departments.
But SMG President and CEO Wes Westley released a statement Friday saying the company looks forward to continuing its work at Soldier Field. “We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue our partnership with the Chicago Park District. We look forward to many more years of working together to serve the people of Chicago and the millions of visitors who come here for year-round events,” Westley said in his statement.
The new SMG contract would run for 10 years, and the Park District would have the option to grant five one-year extensions, according to the Park District news release. The company will receive an annual management fee of $600,000 to $684,000 for running Soldier Field, the McFetridge Sports Center and a Park District baseball stadium in the West Rogers Park neighborhood.
SMG will make a $2.5 million contribution to the Park District and will establish a $1 million marketing fund to promote events at Soldier Field, according to the Park District.
AEG officials were not available to comment Friday.