The State of the Chicago Bears Nation this week features a land purchase heard around the world. Well at least around Chicagoland and the interwebs. The Bears are in need of stadium improvements. In an attempt to improve their negotiation strength while also strengthening their brand, the Bears made a bid on the 326 plus acres of land currently occupied by the Arlington Race Track.
The property is located in Arlington Heights, a suburb 35 miles northwest of Soldier Field. It would take about an hour for anyone coming from Soldier Field to reach the current property. The Bears are making this bid in an attempt to seek greater options than they currently have. The Bears do not own Solider Field. Soldier Field is owned by Chicago Park District. This has given the owners of the Bears, the McCaskeys, headaches for years. In essence, the Bears are owned in many ways by the city of Chicago.
As the McCaskey family enters a state of flux there will be many heart-wrenching decisions for the grandchildren of the NFL’s originator, George Halas. Virginia McCaskey is 98 years old. She has been kicking strong for a woman her age but there are rumblings many of her children are looking to sell the Bears. Most of the children have nothing to do with the Bears as a business. George McCaskey has taken on the role of ownerships face but many of the Bears descendants could earn a great deal more money if they were to sell the franchise sooner rather than later.
Purchasing the Arlington Heights land would give the Bears an option to create the greatest, most profitable stadium in the country. Yes, they could compete with Jerry’s world. Surely the Bears have watched as other franchises are able to use their stadiums to collect revenues on music venues, the final four tournaments, and yes, the Super Bowl. If the Bears were able to purchase the land in Arlington Heights, build a retractable dome roof, they could improve the playing conditions and bring in one of the most profitable events that sports have to offer. The Super Bowl.
Profits Come Calling
Currently, the Bears are the seventh most valuable franchise in the NFL and they are the 18th most valuable sports franchise in the world. If the Bears were able to secure this property they could become the most valuable sports organization in the world. They could build hotels, restaurants, possibly a casino, and even condo’s all around the crown jewel of the newly built, technological marvel of a football stadium. This purchase is all about maximizing revenue in the face of turning their backs on tradition. It is a wise business decision that has been a long time coming.
I will admit, I am a season ticket-holding Bears fan. I have a special place in my heart for all the games I’ve attended since I was seven years old in 1988, but this is the right move. It’s the right move for the family, it’s the right move for the State, it’s the right move for the region. The Chicagoland area is one of the most economically bustling areas in the world. That region deserves a super bowl centering around the league’s charter franchise. There would be nostalgia for the Bears leaving Chicago. I remember the old Soldier Field and the awful conditions around the stadium. So I love the new stadium, yes the spaceship and all. I love what they have done around the stadium. I love the aesthetic the accompanies the stadium from a 30,000-foot level but the stadium itself is not a top-tier stadium.
Ma and Pa Store
The stadium in Chicago is the smallest stadium in the NFL. That is poor business on so many levels. The Chicago Bears should be operated as a main component of the NFL stratosphere, instead, they have been limited to the likes of a Ma and Pa store. The stadium is landlocked between the lake, railroad lines, and a Grant Park and the Convention center. It is boxed in and the area where people want to do not have many options to feature the Bears the way other teams across the league do.
Jerry’s world isn’t in Dallas, it’s in Arlington Texas (ironic I know). Jerry’s World is about 20 miles west of Dallas and was built in that city for similar reasons. Jerry Jones wanted to own his own stadium and all that accompanies that ownership. It’s a wise investment. The Bears want to own their stadium that features a highly sought-after product with limited competition.
I am all for the move, although the Bears have a lease in Soldier Field through 2033, the deal would likely take years to come to fruition. While the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, made a snide remark about the Bears using this bid as a negotiation tactic, I think it’s much more this time. “Chicago” has become so much more than actually Chicago proper. Chicago land claims Bears fans from downtown Chicago, to Arlington Heights, all the way to just south of Wisconsin border in Gurnee (where I was born and raised). If we are anywhere within 100 miles of Chicago, we are from Chicago.
The Suburbs Is Where Its At
The Bears are Illinois’s team and they are not bound to actual Chicago property. Many NFL organizations are not located in the city they take as their name. The LA Chargers and LA Rams do not play in LA, Dallas plays in Arlington, and both New York teams play in New Jersey. It is more about the brand than the actual physical location. No one from anywhere close to Chicago tells out-of-towners they are from Gurnee, or Schaumburg, or Arlington Heights. We all say we are from Chicago. That is our identity.
In the past, the Bears had no intention of leaving Soldier Field, and change is hard on everyone. But the Bears didn’t always play in Soldier Field, they played in Wrigley Field until 1970. People were up in arms over the Bears leaving Wrigley and playing in Soldier Field, but now, no one remembers. I believe this time is different. The Bears seem to have the inside track on the property in Arlington Heights and this time they will move the team. The advantages and opportunities far outweigh the negatives.
Bears fans will follow the Bears wherever and smile even wider when they are enjoying a closed air game in January with Justin Fields leading the Bears to their 4th Super Bowl appearance in 10 years The is a move that has been a long time coming and as the 2021 Bears get ready to head to camp on July 31st, the dominoes are in motion for the Bears soon being the next NFL team claimed by their opportunistic suburban neighbors.