Commentary: Bears moving to Arlington Heights is a good thing for team and NFL
|Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 1:41 PM- -|
In a league where new, state-of-the-art facilities are going up every season, the Bears are stuck in the 1930s as they remain in Soldier Field. Sure, Soldier Field has gone through plenty of renovations of its own to make it more visually appealing, but this is still an older stadium masked with the lowest capacity of all 32 NFL franchises.
One of the founding member teams of the NFL, the Bears have been a part of downtown Chicago for 100 years. This team's following is unbelievable, and fans turn out in droves to watch their team play. The problem with Soldier Field, among other things, is its location. Not only is it located by lake Michigan making the weather miserable late in the season.
That means that it is a pain to get to, and the parking situation is a nightmare. You would think that the Bears and the NFL, for that matter, would have found a way to make necessary infrastructure updates to this stadium since their last renovations, but that was never the case. However, as of Wednesday, September 29th, it appears the end is near for the Bears at Soldier Field as they have officially purchased land in Arlington Heights for close to 172 Million dollars.
Whether you are for this decision to move or against it is fine, but the reality of the situation is that this is not only good for the NFL but a great thing for the Bears. Not only will this get the Bears out of downtown Chicago to a more travel-friendly location, but it will allow the Bears to build a state-of-the-art facility that could hold 75,000-80,000 fans if they see fit.
As nice as Soldier field is, it still is the smallest stadium in the league as it holds around 61,500 fans. That is too small of a field for an NFL team, especially one with the following this Bears team has. Ideally, the Bears would love to make Soldier field bigger, but the reality of the situation is simple. They simply can't expand that stadium anymore, given the location of that. Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips had this to say about the purchase of the land.
"We are excited to have executed a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) for the Arlington Park property," said Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips. "We are grateful to Churchill Downs Incorporated for their efforts to reach this point. We also appreciate the support of Mayor Tom Hayes and the Village of Arlington Heights. Finalizing the PSA was the critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential. Much work remains to be completed, including working closely with the Village of Arlington Heights and surrounding communities before we can close on this transaction. Our goal is to chart a path forward that allows our team to thrive on the field, Chicagoland to prosper from this endeavor, and the Bears organization to be ensured a strong future. We will never stop working toward delivering Bears fans the very best experience. We will continue to provide updates on our progress at the appropriate time."
Despite agreeing to purchase land, a new stadium is not official as a lot needs to fall into place. Obviously, the next step in moving the team out of Chicago would be a significant development plan to build a new stadium that not only makes sense but is on par with the Sofi Stadium and Mercedes Benz stadiums of the world.
Secondly, the town of Arlington Heights would most likely have to take on some of the cost to build a new field, but how much would they be on the hook for? Finally, a new stadium is also contingent on the existing Soldier Field and if the City of Chicago tries to do something to make it worthwhile for
the Bears to stay. I find that unlikely to happen, but there are a lot of moving parts that need to happen.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of moving the team to Arlington Heights would be the possibility of the Bears hosting a Superbowl which can't be done right now. Chicago has the hotel space and the market size necessary to host the Superbowl now, but with Soldier Field being an outdoor venue, that will never happen in February.
The Superbowl is not just a one-day thing, but instead, it is a two-week event filled with activities. If people are going to come to an area and freeze during these activities, they will not want to sit through a four-plus hour game if the Bears are not playing. That leads me to believe that a new venue will most likely be a dome stadium or retractable roof, which I think would be ideal.
Football has always been one of those sports that is meant to be played in the elements. I still feel that way today, and even with a retractable roof, the Bears could elect to keep the roof open in the winter months and use that to their advantage. However, hosting a Super Bowl is a money-making opportunity and one that could only happen in Chicago if the venue can be closed.
Adding a retractable roof would not only allow for a Super Bowl to be brought to Chicago, but other events such as the NCAA Final Four for Men's Basketball, the Frozen four for NCAA Hockey, and several other events such as concerts, Monster Trucks, X-games, Motocross, and anything under the sun. This is not only an opportunity for the Bears to catch up with the times of newer NFL stadiums, but it is an investment opportunity.
This wouldn't just be a four-to-five-month venue as Soldier Field is right now. A new stadium with a retractable roof is a 12-month venue that could host any event you can think of. That not only makes money for the Bears organization but the Arlington Heights community, which will help the economy. Not to mention, the better the facility, the better the chances of getting the best free agents to come to play for you, which leads to more wins.