So long, Soldier Field! The chances of the Bears staying in Chicago city limits past 2033 keep dwindling. Last year the team put in a bid to buy the Arlington International Racecourse, a bid they won. Recent proposals from the city of Chicago have done nothing to deter the Bears from their move to the suburb 26 miles away from downtown.
Why are the Bears moving?
No one can deny the historical value that Soldier Field has in the NFL. But while the Bears have played there since 1971, there are issues that make it less profitable than many other major league stadiums.
For one thing the stadium only has a maximum seating capacity of 61,500 people, the lowest of any stadium in the NFL. The area around Soldier Field is also mostly undeveloped park space. Compared to the shops and bars that cover nearby Wrigleyville, there isn’t a lot of room for other businesses.
Altogether the new location and facilities would increase the value of the Bears franchise by a substantial amount. Reportedly, even other NFL owners are encouraging the move because it would increase their own teams’ values.
What has Chicago offered?
After the Bears secured the Arlington International Racecourse deal, the city responded with an offer to build a $1.5 billion dome over Soldier Field. Although the team is interested in playing indoors, a dome over Soldier Field would do nothing to address the small capacity. Having access to more land around the stadium would also provide more opportunities.
A new offer from the city increased the amount to $2.2 billion, and still includes the dome idea. Also on the table were extra parking areas and possible revenue from a naming rights deal. The Bears responded, “The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park.”
Some Bears fans may despair that their team’s flight from the city is now all but certain. Perhaps they can take comfort in the fact that the team will still play home games only an hour’s drive from Soldier Field. It may be easier to swallow with a beer across the street from the new Arlington Park in 2034.
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