The Chicago Bears: Reasons to Move to Arlington Heights
There is a new debate happening between fans, members of the Chicago Bears family, and the City of Chicago. Should the Chicago Bears relocate from Soldier Field to Arlington Heights?
Currently, Soldier Field is located on Special Olympics Dr which has a breathtaking view of the lakefront. For residents or visitors, it is walking distance to many of the museums in the area like Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum.
However, there are issues with Soldier Field. In 1987 it was given status as a national historic landmark. Any future renovations had to be approved by the city of Chicago. This also meant that the stadium could not be knocked down to build a new one. Fast forward to 2003, the Bears renovated Soldier Field. Many people, including myself, did not like it. 5,000 seats were removed making Soldier Field the smallest stadium in the National Football League at 61,500 seats. Remember that Chicago is the third largest sports market in the United States. The U.S. government took Soldier Field off of the National Register of Historic Places because they believed the renovations changed the stadium too much. $660 million was spent to create this monstrosity only to have the landmark status taken away.
The Chicago Bears may now have a second chance. The 326-acre Arlington International Racecourse was up for bid and according to a release from the club on September 21st, 2021, the Bears organization signed a purchase agreement to buy the property. The team is hoping to close the sale by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
This news confirmed years of speculation that a possible relocation was possible. This so-called dream can now become reality if everything falls into place. There are 5 reasons to believe the McCaskey Family should relocate the Bears to Arlington Heights.
#1 — Modern Stadium
A bigger stadium means more fans. Over the past several years, we have seen NFL franchises build new stadiums for their teams. Examples include SoFi Stadium (Rams/Chargers), Allegiant Stadium (Raiders), AT&T Stadium (Cowboys), MetLife Stadium (Giants/Jets), Levi’s Stadium (49ers), and U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings). All ranging upwards to 80,000 seats or more. Many of the stadiums around the league have a dome or retractable roof. If the Bears implemented this idea, more fans would come to see them play. If you have never been to a Bears game in December, all I can say is dress warm. Even that might be an understatement. With the wind coming off Lake Michigan, it makes the current temperatures even colder. Many fans will argue that playing outside gives the team an advantage to opponents visiting from warmer states. What is the use of this if fans are lost in the process?
#2 — Restaurants + Hotels
The Stadium will only occupy parts of the 326-acre so there is plenty left to build restaurants and hotels. This is an opportunity to make the Chicago Bears a must see destination. Having the hotels will accommodate travelers. Look at the Chicago Cubs and how they redid Wrigleyville. People can stay in a hotel right across the stadium. There is nightlife to enjoy a drink or see. This is the potential I see with the Chicago Bears. It will not only benefit the team but Arlington Heights. We could see a huge boom with the money that would be cured in and generated.
#3 — Hosting Events
With a high tech stadium surrounded by restaurants and hotels, the Chicago Bears can host many events. With the increase of seating, they could finally host aSuper Bowl or a College Football Playoff game. If they have a dome, they could even host concerts. The ideas are endless if they have these two criterias. The hotels will meet the demand for these events so game day traveling would be minimal.
#4 — The Fans (Most in suburbs)
With the 326-acre to build on, there will also be more parking available. Downtown parking is atrocious. There is almost never any to begin with. Sometimes you need to park 20 min from Soldier Field just to take a bus to the stadium. Don’t forget the fans who are traveling from the Suburbs. Game day traffic is imminent. As a kid, I remember leaving for a noon game for almost 4–5 hours just to beat traffic and find parking. Having an actual parking lot could reduce.
#5 — Money
At the end of the day, the Chicago Bears would be making money. Tons of it. More seating means more fans especially if the new stadium is domed. With a new stadium means a new name. I expect the bid for naming rights to be high as the Chicago Bears are a historic franchise. Also, Illinois has been allowing sports gambling so a casino could be built next to the stadium or even attached to it.
The most important thing out of everything is that a move to Arlington Heights to build a new stadium would mean that the Chicago Bears own it. They currently do not own Soldier Field which the lease ends in 2033 but the Bears could break the lease by paying $84 million starting in 2026. While I’ll miss the experience of going downtown and entering Soldier Field to watch a Bears game, I understand why relocation is a possibility.
Just because they may move to Arlington Heights does not mean they will be the Arlington Heights Bears. Many teams around the league play outside their city. The New York Giants/Jets play in New Jersey. The Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington. The San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara. This is normal and it won’t change how the Chicago Bears will be viewed. To me, let this move happen. I’m ready to see change and see what the future looks like. Make the move.