Earlier this month the Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot made front- and back-page news as she put her local team, the Chicago Bears on blast.
The 58-year-old who assumed office in May, 2019 was responding to the news that the franchise are looking to end their 50-year association with Soldier Field and move to a new location, 35 miles away.
Upon hearing the news Lightfoot said:
“As a season ticket-holder and long time Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team, and like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus of putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”
It sure sounded like fighting talk from a mayor, who is growing tired of watching her football team fail to meet expectations on the field. Lightfoot’s rallying call has thus far had no effect on the sports betting which has the Bears at long odds to top the NFC North.
That’s because the bookmakers know that Lightfoot’s message was less of a rallying call and more of a veiled warning to Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips. In this article we take a look at the nitty gritty of the new beef between Lori Lightfoot and her favourite football team.
If you want to know why the mayor is putting the Bears on blast and what that could mean for the future of the organization, read on…
(The history of Soldier Field.)
Why do the Bears want to leave Soldier Field?
Soldier Field, on the south side of Chicago opened its doors to spectators in 1924 and has been the home of the Chicago Bears since 1971. If you are a football fan, you already know just how symbolically important the stadium, is not just to Bears fans, but to sports fans.
The mere mention of the stadium will evoke sweet memories of games gone by to football fans, soccer fans and even hockey fans. For the Chicago Bears though, an organization looking to boost their revenues, history isn’t enough to pay the bills.
Since its last renovation in 2003 the capacity of the stadium has been reduced to 61,500 which makes it the 29th largest stadiumin the NFL, with only the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Raiders stadiums’ holding less fans.
Ted Phillips wants the Bears to move out of Soldier Field to a larger stadium, where they can attract at least an extra 20,000 spectators per game. This, Phillips believes, would put the Bears on the same financial footing as the big boys in the NFL.
Why Arlington Heights?
The land that the Bears have bid on is in Arlington Heights, around 35 miles away from their current south side home.
What makes the site so attractive to the Bears is the sheer amount of land available, which would allow them to build and expand their stadium free from any restrictions. This would mean that not only could the franchise have a state-of-the-art stadium, but they could have everything that comes with that.
There could be purpose built restaurants, franchise branded stores and bars to entertain fans before heading inside to see games. In addition to that, the fact that the land is so far out of the centre of Chicago makes it much cheaper…
(Mike Florio and Big Cat analyse the pros and cons of the Bears planned move to Arlington Heights.)
Should the Bears move to Arlington Heights?
If the Bears want to compete at the highest level, then they need a bigger stadium to generate more revenues… that’s the argument that Ted Phillips and co will tell you. They will point to the crowds attracted by Green Bay and the likes and cry poverty at their own lowly attendances.
Which is at the very best disingenuous and at the worst, an outright lie. It’s not as though Soldier Field is half the size of the Bears competitors, or quarter of the size. It holds about 4,500 less fans that the current Super Bowl holders and 5,000 less than Gillette Stadium, the home of the fabled New England Patriots.
In terms of game day revenue, the Bears are already pulling in the 12th highest revenues in the NFL despite their ‘small’ stadium, so it’s not like a move to a bigger venue is a pressing concern. Especially when you then consider how much of an outlay it would be to not only buy the Arlington racecourse land, but to then build a super stadium on it.
If Ted Phillips wants an idea of just how costly building a super stadium can be he need look no further than the example of English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur. The London based club are the proud owners of what is widely regarded as the best sports stadium on the planet, an honour which cost them $1.4 billion.
So, in short, the Chicago Bears should not move to Arlington Heights because their financial ‘need’ isn’t sufficient enough to warrant the financial outlay of moving. That’s without even considering the damage that such a move would have to the history of the franchise and to loyal fans who would be forced to travel much, much further to games.
Will the Bears move to Arlington Heights?
In all likelihood, the Bears will not be moving out of Soldier Field anytime soon. Their current lease on the stadium runs until 2033 and this ‘bid’ on Arlington racecourse is likely nothing more than posturing.
Ted Phillips will use the franchise’s reported readiness to up sticks as a bargaining tool to get the renovations to Soldier Field that he wants done, and potentially to increase the capacity of the stadium.
Lori Lightfoot will make some more statements about the Bears needing to focus on their performances rather than their finances and then eventually, a middle ground will be achieved. Until, in 10 or 15 years’ time the issue raises its head once again…