The Bears are moving closer toward moving out of Soldier Field.
According to TheAthletic.com, the Bears have signed a purchase agreement for property in Arlington Heights that could serve as the location for a new stadium. Per the report, the team is expected to announce the acquisition on Wednesday.
“We are not surprised by this move,” a spokesperson for the mayor of Chicago said in a statement to TheAthletic.com. “We remain committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions. However, just as the Bears view this as a business decision so does the City. This season, Soldier Field signed a major contract with the Chicago Fire and just last weekend Soldier Field hosted the Shamrock Series — both of which are lucrative for the Chicago Park District and local economy.
“These examples and others demonstrate that Soldier Field remains a very sought-after venue, and, as the Mayor has said many times, overall, the City and Park District must explore all options to both enhance the visitor and fan experience at Soldier Field year-round and maximize revenues. Therefore, we must do what’s in the best economic interests of our taxpayers and maximize the financial benefits at the important asset that is Soldier Field. As for the Bears, the Mayor has said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open to engage the Bears.”
The Bears have a lease at Soldier Field that runs through 2033; however, they reportedly could buy their way out of it in 2026 with a payment of $84 million.
A new stadium would have, ostensibly, the infrastructure needed to maximize the game-day experience, including but not limited to robust and efficient in-game betting. Also, a new stadium in Arlington Heights would likely be larger and better suited to big-ticket items like suites and luxury seating.
Let’s also keep an eye on the possibility that Chicago could become a two-team market. When it comes to hosting events other than the 10 home games per season played by an NFL team, staging another 10 home games by another team becomes an attractive option. Chicago already has two MLB teams; the economics of having two teams play at a new NFL stadium make it a much better private investment.
Then comes the question of whether Chicago would try to lure a team from another city, or whether Chicago would become the potential location of an expansion team. As the NFL commences a 17-game regular season with an 18-game slate seemingly inevitable, the next frontier when it comes to increasing inventory comes from increasing the number of teams. Chicago would make plenty of sense for a 33rd or 34th (or 35th or 36th) franchise.
Put simply, NFL teams need to go where the money and people are. Whether it’s a team that can’t resolve a current local stadium situation (like, possibly, the Panthers) or a team that encounters a stadium issue in the not-too-distant future or a team that starts from scratch, it makes plenty of sense to consider putting a second team in The Second City.