Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared on both major local sports talk radio stations last week and discussed her efforts to keep the Bears in Chicago.
The Bears have a purchase agreement in place for Arlington Park in Arlington Heights. If the deal closes, the team could build a SoFi Stadium-esque facility in Arlington Heights.
Lightfoot, however, wants to keep the Bears in the Windy City. She said on WSCR-AM 670:
“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to keep the Bears in Chicago. We’re working on some plans to present to them that I think will make a very, very compelling financial case as to why it makes an abundance of sense for them to stay in Chicago.”
On WMVP-AM 1000, Lightfoot even said a roof on Soldier Field was a possibility:
“I think that’s something we have to explore. We do. My bigger thing is, obviously the roof is an issue, but there are other things we can do to really make the amenities more hospitable for Bears fans.”
Lightfoot also left the door open for the Bears to leave Soldier Field but stay within city limits. She noted that the city controls about 10,000 vacant lots.
The mayor also said that Soldier Field is a “crappy fan experience” on the west side of the stadium when there is bad weather.
Still, Lightfoot is steadfast in her stance that the Bears should not leave Chicago, saying the city offers:
“A tier-one market, a tier-one audience, fan base, and I don’t think they can get that in Arlington Heights.”
It is quite the tone shift from Lightfoot compared to several months ago when she responded to the Arlington news by mocking the franchise’s on-field performance.
Things are quiet on Arlington Park front
The Bears signed a purchase agreement for $197.2 million in September. However, we still don’t know if the deal will come to fruition.
Bears President Ted Phillips spoke a bit about the Arlington quest in a January press conference. It’s also worth noting that Phillips, who used to be heavily involved in football and business operations, will scale back his football role to focus on the new stadium.
He said in January of the potential destination:
“There’s nothing else like it in Chicagoland. So the opportunities — you know, we haven’t even begun to envision what it could be. But we’re hopeful, if we close, that we’ll be moving forward with turning it into a wonderful destination site.”
“Again, the timing of it we don’t know because we haven’t even closed on the land. [If] we don’t close on the land, then all that vision won’t come to fruition. But we’re excited that it could be an entertainment destination with multiple facets to it that I think could really help put Arlington Heights on the map as a destination spot.”
Fresh off of seeing the brand new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood host a Super Bowl, one would have to think Bears executives took note. A new suburban mega stadium with a roof would give the team a chance to host Super Bowls on a regular basis.
A new direction for the Bears
The Bears’ Soldier Field days seem numbered, and they have also made lots of recent changes on the football side.
Former head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are gone. Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles are in.
Justin Fields remains the team’s starting quarterback, and it is Poles’ job to surround him with better coaching and personnel infrastructure.
It’s been difficult to be a Bears fan lately. But change presents hope, and for a franchise often criticized for not being nimble with the times, it is at least trying to get up to speed.