The Bears have been around for more than 100 years. They currently envision eventually spending 100 years at a new stadium in Arlington Park.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the team’s flirtation with exiting its longtime downtown home isn’t just a ploy. It’s a plan. A plan that keeps moving toward full-blown implementation.
A day after the team held an informational meeting regarding the Arlington Park project, team chairman George McCaskey provided his most concrete vision yet of a steel-and-cement alternative to Soldier Field in comments to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“In each of those situations, the building had been designed and built primarily for other events or another team,” McCaskey said regarding the team’s current and past home fields. “This is our 100-year opportunity to design it for us.”
Although the move to Soldier Field in 1971 was supposed to be temporary, the Bears have become the primary tenant of a building they don’t own.
“I would compare it to a homeowner that rents for year after year after year,” McCaskey told Finley. “I mean, there are advantages to that– but there are some significant disadvantages to that also.”
McCaskey’s comments come a day after a public town-hall meeting, during which the Bears created the sense that they fully intend to build their own ballpark.
“We don’t have a Plan B,” team president Ted Phillips said during the meeting, via Jason Lieser of the Sun-Times. “We will not be discussing any other alternative sites, including renovations of Soldier Field.”
The new stadium would have a fixed, non-retractable roof. And while that approach sacrifices a key part of the Windy City home-field advantage, it expands the various ways in which the building can be used — and the months of the year in which it can host events and make money.
The Bears’ lease runs through 2033. However, they can leave as soon as 2026, by paying $90 million. The price to cancel the lease prematurely drops with each passing year.
There’s still a chance it’s all a ruse, a negotiating tactic aimed at getting a better deal at Soldier Field. As such things usually go, the more convincing the alternative, the more effective it can be.