When the Chicago Bears drafted Justin Fields, it looked like it might be safe to go back in the water and cheer for da Bears. With such an uncharacteristic move, the franchise gave fans a reason for hope. They would have to suffer through the brief Andy Dalton Era first, but hope was on the horizon.
But thanks to the team’s latest move, there is now a monster storm cloud threatening to block out that promising horizon.
What could be so damaging that optimism and hope have been taken away once again? Is Jay Cutler coming back? Has Mitchell Trubisky been reacquired? No, but the possibility of moving away from one of the most iconic stadiums in the country has taken a big step toward becoming a reality.
Chicago Bears Leaving Soldier Field?
The Bears have submitted a bid to buy the property where the Arlington International Racecourse sits as a possible relocation site for the team. Thursday afternoon, team president and CEO Ted Phillips released the following statement:
“We recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property. It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”
Rumors of the Bears possibly leaving Soldier Field for the Arlington Heights property have been circulating for weeks. When asked about their alleged interest in the property back in April, officials for the Bears refused to confirm or deny the rumors.
We now know that the rumors are true—the Bears are thinking about leaving Soldier Field. Or so they want us to believe they might.
The team has been negotiating with the city to get some renovations done on the nearly century-old stadium. However, since the team has a lease that runs through the 2033 season, putting in a bid on the Arlington property could be a negotiation tactic.
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot appears to think that is the case:
On the Bears bid to buy Arlington Racecourse… pic.twitter.com/FE6mBHB50U
— Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) June 17, 2021
This is the third time the Chicago Bears have used the threat of moving to Arlington Park. Team founder George Halas was the first to do so back in 1975. Officials did so again in the mid-1980s.
Bears Should Not Expect To See The City Budge
It is worth noting that just buying the property does not mean anything. The team would still have to bulldoze the site and then construct a new stadium—which would take at least a couple of years and a couple of billion dollars.
But if the team is trying to get the city to pay for renovations to Soldier Field, it is probably safe to assume it will not want to pay for a stadium. The City of Chicago will undoubtedly have no interest in funding a new stadium if the Bears leave Soldier Field.
Funding a new NFL stadium will not be within the budget constraints of Arlington Heights, either.
More than likely, the move is just a tactic the Bears are trying to use against the city. But with the pandemic wrecking government budgets, it is not hard to imagine Lightfoot continuing to hold out on the Bears.
Not because she has zero desire to help the team, but because the city does not have money for such an expense. Simply put, the city has more important things than renovations at Soldier Field in need of funding.
With the Soldier Field lease and the time it will take to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, the Bears are not going anywhere anytime soon. Unfortunately, that likely means we have not seen the last of this little drama.