Can Chicago host a second NFL team at Soldier Field in place of the Bears?

·4 min read

Can Chicago host a second NFL team at Soldier Field? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The inevitable departure of the Chicago Bears out of Soldier Field is upon Bears fans. The gears are starting to turn surrounding the new stadium in Arlington Heights.

The team announced on Thursday its plan to host an informational meeting at John Hersey High School on Sept. 8 about the "potential purchase and possible development of Arlington Park."

Soon enough, the city will be left with a stadium without a dome and one mainstay tenant (Chicago Fire).

Could the city bring in another tenant to replace the Chicago Bears?

"If I was the city, I would let the Bears get out of their lease for free," Ken Davis said on The Rush with Tony Gill. "On one condition -- you don't stop me from bringing in an AFC team."

There are two cities in the country that have two NFL teams. New York (Giants and Jets) and Los Angeles (Rams, Chargers) each have two NFL teams in their respective cities. Chicago is the third-largest city in America behind these two, so it's sensical to have another NFL team in the city if desired.

Could the Bears become the third city to have two NFL tams?

One could point to a small market team in the NFL wanting to maximize its franchise value elsewhere, like the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This is exactly what the Rams did in 2015. They moved from a small market location (St. Louis) to one of the largest cities and sports markets in the country (Los Angeles).

In Chicago's case, it would be a smoother transition for any team that wanted to move. Instead of a team having to pay for a stadium in their new location -- like the Rams did by spending $5 billion on SoFi stadium -- they could use the existing Soldier Field.

Back in late July, Mayor Lori Lightfoot rolled out a three-pronged plan to renovate Soldier Field. The main concept was constructing a dome over the field to maximize the stadium's usage for year-round events and to convince the Bears from moving out, thus costing the city valuable profits.

Another option intends to make the stadium into a "multi-purpose" arena, mainly for their soccer tenant -- the Chicago Fire.

The third option, on the other hand, aims at making the stadium "dome ready." The option turned some heads. What does "dome ready" mean?

"There's plenty of cities that have two NFL teams," Lightfoot said during the unveiling of the city's plan for renovating Soldier Field. 

Lightfoot is playing hardball with the Bears. The city is trying to make Soldier Field move-in ready, all any team has to do is sign a lease and move in, and maybe construct a dome if it wants.

However, it isn't that simple. Any relocating team needs valid reasoning to leave their current location -- which cannot be revenue driven. They also need 75 percent of the vote from league members.

Article 4.3 requires prior approval by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the member clubs before a club may transfer its franchise or playing site to a different city either within or outside its existing home territory.

The idea itself seems plausible. Any team who wants a change of scenery has a place to stay in Chicago. All they have to do is figure out the semantics and navigate moving into the Bears' territory.

There haven't been any recent talks of teams looking to relocate, even though some should be interested in the concept. But, expansion has been talked about around the NFL. They've already proved their interest in going international by having games in Europe and Mexico.

If the NFL wanted to expand the league, why not put another team in one of the largest sports markets in the country? Chicago has the capacity to hold two NFL teams. The city set itself up to welcome a new team, if the Bears leave.

Even if the city doesn't attract another NFL team to rent out Soldier Field, they likely will compete with the Bears for business. If the city can find the funds to construct a dome over Soldier Field, they could attract events away from the Bears new stadium.

The Bears will presumably build a dome or retractable roof on a new stadium for the same business reasons as the city would with Soldier Field. But, why would any event want to rent in Arlington Heights when they could go to downtown Chicago?

The city could steal concerts, NCAA tournament games, WWE matches, etc. away from the Bears and its stadium. All they need to do is find the funding to put a dome over Soldier Field, which is easier said than done.

The Bears created an extremely tough situation for the city of Chicago when they announced the organization signed the purchasing rights to Arlington Park back in September.

Could the city strike back with a savvy counter punch?

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