The mayor of a Chicago suburb that will soon have a stadium-sized piece of property available says the Bears are considering leaving Soldier Field, while the mayor of Chicago says the team isn’t going anywhere.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the Bears approached her about making changes to Soldier Field, which has a seating capacity of just 61,500, making it the NFL’s smallest stadium.
“It’s a great, iconic site,” Lightfoot said, via FOX 32 in Chicago. “But it’s a challenging site, and I think it’s incumbent on us as a city to step up and look at ways in which we can make sure that the Bears fans, but also the Bears as an organization, have the best opportunities to maximize the fan experience and, of course, maximize revenues.”
Lightfoot added, however, that the Bears’ lease with the city to play at Soldier Field runs through 2033 and that she’s confident the Bears won’t move, and that the NFL wouldn’t let them if they tried.
Tom Hayes, the mayor of Arlington Heights, Illinois, however, has a different idea: Hayes says his city’s Arlington Park race track, located about 30 miles from Soldier Field, would be the perfect spot for the next home field of the Bears. The Arlington Park site is for sale and is expected to be demolished and redeveloped by its next owner.
“Certainly, the Arlington Park site is available and we would consider the Chicago Bears a great fit for that particular site,” Hayes said. “I think the Bears are seriously considering it because it’s such a unique piece of property. It has so much going for it in terms of its location in the northwest suburbs where a lot of their audience is.”
The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971, with the exception of 2002, when they played at the University of Illinois for the season because Soldier Field was undergoing extensive renovations. Given the shelf life on stadium renovations, it’s unsurprising that two decades later, there’s now talk that Soldier Field is no longer up to snuff.