Instead of spending their Sundays at one of the NFL’s oldest stadiums, those same fans may have to prepare for taking in games at a new venue. At least, that’ll be the case if a local politician gets his way.
The Bears could leave Soldier Field and Chicago for the suburbs
Out with the Chicago Bears, in with the…Chicago Bears of Arlington Heights?
According to the Daily Herald, the area of Arlington Heights, Illinois, is still interested in building a stadium for the Bears. Arlington Heights is roughly 27 miles from Soldier Field, the Bears’ longtime home.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told the Daily Herald that the Bears potentially moving to his area remains a possibility. The Bears would likely play at the site of Arlington Park, a race track that is expected to be demolished and redeveloped by its next owner.
“It’s still on the table, to my understanding, but it’s a complete, definite ‘maybe. I’m not in a position where I could say it’s a definite ‘go’ or definite ‘no go.'”Tom Hayes
The Daily Herald reported that a Bears spokesman did not return a comment. However, the paper also said the team had not denied interest in moving to Arlington Park.
If they moved to Arlington Heights, it makes sense to think the Bears would likely retain their current name and branding. Just ask the New York Giants and Jets, both of whom play in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Don’t expect the Bears to leave anytime soon, though
The process of building new stadiums or relocating to another city is not as easy as video games or movies make it seem. There is an extensive legal process involving everything from leases to who is funding the stadium.
The Bears’ current lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033, and the NFL does not allow teams to end their leases prematurely. Although the NFL approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas in 2017, the team could not move for another two seasons because their lease in Oakland didn’t end until February 2019.
All of this is very relevant to the Bears and their current stadium situation. Even if the Bears get funding to move to Arlington Park, their current lease makes it extremely difficult for that transition to occur in the near future.
However, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is determined to keep the Bears around and said earlier this year she felt it was “incumbent on us as a city to step up.” No stadium in the NFL holds fewer people than Soldier Field’s capacity of 61,500.
None of Chicago’s major teams have left for the suburbs
The idea of the Bears leaving Chicago still sounds like a fantasy, and there is reason for local fans to be skeptical. None of the city’s major sports teams have left the Windy City yet.
The Cubs, likely in an attempt to get funding for renovations at Wrigley Field, reportedly explored the idea of moving to Rosemont, 13 miles west, in early 2013. It shouldn’t be a surprise that later that year, the Chicago City Council approved plans later that year for a $575 million renovation of the sport’s oldest stadium.
The Bears organization is playing the politics to get what they want, and the city of Chicago has too much to lose to not work on refitting Soldier Field.