There's a lot of moving parts between the city of Chicago and the Chicago Bears about where the team will play in the future.
Let's break down the perspectives, criticisms and statements surrounding the premise that the Bears are planning to move to Arlington Heights and leave Soldier Field.
Are the Bears moving to Arlington Heights?
As far as we know, the Bears are going to move to Arlington Heights, specifically Arlington Park.
Back in the fall, the Bears signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property. The Bears are buying the 326-acre property for $197.2 million.
The team said in a statement they have the full intention to dismiss the proposals the city made to renovate Soldier Field because of their agreement to purchase the land in Arlington.
Here's what the Bears say
Here's what Bears president Ted Phillips said back when they submitted a bid to buy the land: "We recently submitted a bid to purchase Arlington International Racecourse property. It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential."
Since this statement, the Bears signed a purchase agreement to buy the land for their stadium. Upon doing so, the city of Chicago drafted a roughly 50-page proposal plan to renovate Soldier Field in an attempt to keep the team in downtown Chicago and not move to Arlington Heights.
However, the Bears have made it perfectly clear they are motivated to move out of Soldier Field to pursue the construction of a new stadium.
Here's the statement from the team regarding its dismissal of the city's proposals: "The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract."
Criticisms of Soldier Field
Why are the Bears moving out of Soldier Field?
Without knowing the full answer from the organization, there's plenty of speculation as to the reasons they want to cease from calling Soldier Field their home stadium.
Soldier Field is the oldest standing stadium in the NFL. It currently seats around 61,500, making it smallest stadium in the NFL despite Chicago being one of the largest markets. Because of that, Soldier Field needs a major renovation to increase capacity.
The iconic columns and the desire to preserve them make expansion of the stadium a unique architectural challenge.
From the Bears' perspective, there's nothing proprietary about the stadium. The Bears do not own the stadium. It's owned by the Chicago Park District. That means they cannot inherit all the revenues the stadium generates. A new stadium would fully guarantee the profits to the organization.
More on the economic standpoint, the Bears do not own the restaurants/businesses around Soldier Field. In Arlington Heights, the team has ample land to build around a stadium like other NFL teams have to create a lucrative cash cow.
While the location of Soldier Field is exquisite, providing breathtaking views of the city, Grant Park and the lake, it's ironically painful to travel to. City residents that take the train must incur a long walk from the nearest train stops, which are far west of the stadium. Parking is also miniscule around the stadium, evidential from the city's offer to make "floating devices" upon Burnham Harbor to create more parking.
Amidst the costs of the new stadium, the land (~$197 million) and breaking the lease (~$84 million) are cents on the dollar to new stadium costs. The Las Vegas Raiders' new stadium (Allegiant) cost $2 billion and the Los Angeles Rams' stadium (SoFi) cost $5 billion. It's unknown what the Bears are willing to pay to make the new stadium.
Amongst an abundance of other reasons for the Bears to leave Soldier Field, these are some of the main speculated reasons the Bears want to go to Arlington Heights.
Here's what Chicago and Mayor Lightfoot say
The city of Chicago has made valiant, outside-the-box attempts at keeping the Bears from moving out of Soldier Field. Initially, Mayor Lightfoot scoffed at the idea of the Bears winning the purchasing bid to buy the land in Arlington Heights.
"The Bears are locked into a lease at Soldier Field until 2033," Lightfoot said in a statement. "In addition, this announcement from the Bears comes in the midst of negotiations for improvements at Soldier Field. This is clearly a negotiating tactic that the Bears have used before," Lightfoot’s statement read.
She didn't hold back from taking jabs at the team either.
"Like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning football team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October," Lightfoot said. "Everything else is noise."
Since the Bears announced their intentions to Arlington Park, the city drafted an elongated plan of renovations to persuade the Bears into staying at Soldier Field. The draft was over 50 pages long, including plans of a dome, a monorail, extended parking, etc.
The Bears rejected the ideas two days after the city released them.
On Monday, however, Mayor Lightfoot and her team announced a new plan involving three options they could take the stadium. Depending on the main tenant of the stadium, the renovations surround either building a dome, constructing an open-air "dome ready" stadium or renovating the stadium into a "multi-purpose" stadium used for soccer (Chicago Fire) and better hosting events.
Lightfoot mentioned her and Bears chairman George McCaskey have spoken about the plans she has in place for the Bears. She did not mention the details of the conversation, yet said the Bears would be "foolish" not to consider the plan.
The mayor also mentioned the idea of hosting a second NFL team with the stadium in which the city could host at Soldier Field, assuming the Bears will pass on staying. New York (Giants and Jets) and Los Angeles (Chargers and Rams) each have two football teams and the Bears are the third-largest city in America.
Whether or not the Bears move to Arlington Heights, the city has made a compelling case to keep them in downtown Chicago. Despite the Bears likely passing on the renovations, if the city were able to finance and build the enhancements, they could compete with hosting other events that might be more attracted to playing in downtown Chicago as opposed to Arlington Heights.
We'll know more once the team closes on the land in Arlington and provides updates on their future plans.
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