In the modern NFL, $2.2 billion won’t stop the Chicago Bears’ trip to the suburbs | Chicago Bears

The city of Chicago threw its heavyweight this week behind an effort to keep the Bears at Soldier Field, the base of the NFL team since 1971. The historic stadium, the oldest in the NFL, may be in its final days as the Bears. ‘ Homepage.

Last fall, the team’s ownership reached a purchase agreement on a sprawling 326-acre site in suburban Chicago. The Bears purchase is essentially on hold although before it becomes final, there are a series of logistical, financial and legal episodes that both sides will need to support it.

If the purchase is actually completed, Bears fans will be in for a massive change. While fans can count on their team’s midfield struggle continuing until the end of time, transforming homes from a relic steeped in NFL history into a modern facility far from downtown would be an emotional adjustment.

For Chicago residents, it also presents logistical challenges. The Bears’ proposed new home is located 30 miles from Soldier Field in Arlington Heights, near O’Hare Airport. It may only be 26 miles from downtown, but as anyone who has braved the permanently blocked I-90 can attest, the journey is often more than an hour. But, perhaps decisively, the new site represents a goldmine of financial opportunity for the property of the Bears, who do not own the area around Soldier Field.

Every statement from the Bears confirms their intent to buy Arlington Park, but the city of Chicago doesn’t give up without a fight. The city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is determined to keep the Bears playing at Soldier Field after 2033, when the lease expires (the team can end the lease early if they pay the city an $84 million release clause).

This week, Lightfoot revealed three proposals to improve Soldier Field, focused on giving the stadium the option of a dome for year-round use — a useful feature amid Chicago’s harsh winters and hot summers. Plans also include revitalizing the surrounding area and adding “floating wings” to enhance parking options at the hard-to-reach stadium. The organization may also be allowed to earn revenue from the naming rights deal.

“It is no surprise that we are doing what we believe makes a compelling case for the Chicago Bears to remain in Chicago. They want a top-notch stadium environment to maximize revenue, and we agree that we will continue to make the case to the Bears, the NFL, and the public that Soldier Field has been Activating it is the most economically beneficial for this premium franchise,” said Lightfoot.

But Lightfoot’s efforts seem to be nothing more than a very desperate peace, Mary. Simply put, Soldier Field doesn’t have much to offer in the modern NFL, with many owners viewing revenue streams as more of a measure of success than gains and losses. With a capacity of 61,500, Soldier Field is the league’s smallest stadium — too small, in fact, to qualify for major events like the World Cup or the Super Bowl (Lightfoot plans could increase capacity to 70,000). It also received a botched $600 million facelift in 2003, which led the Chicago Tribune architecture critic to dub the stadium “The Eyesore On The Lake Shore.” Taxpayers’ appetite to fund more renovations — Lightfoot’s plans that will cost between $900 million and $2.2 billion — may also be in doubt given the rising cost of living and the looming risk of recession. The mayor did not say who would fund the plans, but the sale of the stadium’s naming rights is one possibility.

Despite the public Battle of Lightfoot, the Bears continue to press ahead with their plans to cede Soldier Field to Arlington Heights. In March, the Beers family hired an architecture firm to help design the potential new stadium. On Monday, they reissued a statement they had put out earlier this month expressing their intent to relocate.

“The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring to develop a new stadium is Arlington Park,” the Bears family said. “As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of this property, we do not pursue deals or alternative stadium locations, including renovations at Soldier Field, while we are under contract. We have informed the City of Chicago that we intend to fulfill our contractual obligations while we continue to conduct due diligence and pre-development activities at Arlington Heights Estate”.

There is no guarantee that the purchase of Arlington Heights will create a new stadium but this is the most likely outcome. The McCaskey Halas family, the Bears’ owners, aren’t exactly known for their deep pockets, so it seems unlikely that a fully privately funded playground would be modeled on Stan Kroenke’s SoFi kingdom in Los Angeles. However, if Arlington Heights residents help the Bears join the ranks of the NFL teams that have combined some semblance of public funding (SoFi, Gillette Stadium and MetLife Stadium were only privately funded), the McCaskeys will be teeming with land options they own around the stadium. From naming rights to concerts to major international sporting events to luxurious stadium amenities with equally luxurious price tags for hotels and anything else they are interested in adding to their massive complex, the possibilities are endless.

By out of Chicago, the Bears have left a huge void in the city’s vibrant sports scene. But that’s the story of the NFL today with last year’s revenue over $11 billion and projected to reach $25 billion by 2027. The city of Chicago has no chance.

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