Would Bears Consider Moving to New Stadium at Arlington?

Gene Chamberlain

Every few years someone revives talk of the Bears moving to Arlington Heights or to Rosemont or to Gary, Ind.

Once they were said to even be headed for Keeneyville, IL. 

That's a real place, near Route 20 and Gary Ave., not far from Stratford Square Mall. The late Michael McCaskey made the rounds in the area at the time and talked up the possibility back in the Mike Ditka era.  

Of course none of these came to fruition and the latest rumor or wishful thinking—depending on your viewpoint—is courtesy almost entirely of media.  

Kevin Kaduc of Yahoo Sports, a longtime writer in the Chicago area, and ESPN AM-1000 host Brian Hanley get credit for these rumblings.

Kaduk, has a newsletter he puts out via the Internet and a couple of neat photos of old Bears items, including a 1975 stadium drawing at the race track. 

It's true the race track's fate is hanging in a balance after Churchill Downs decided against putting a casino at the location. Actually, it would seem the race track's longterm fate has already been decided, and that is to be demolished anyway.

The trouble with this idea of moving the Bears there is they are locked into Soldier Field with a lease that runs through 2033, and when all is said and done the total rental cost is only $6.3 million annually. They're not tossing out this kind of a sweet deal, and it seems unlikely the McCaskey family would like to eat the $6.3 million a year to move somewhere else.  

Numerous websites list 1924 as the opening of the stadium and refer to it as the oldest stadium in the NFL.  

None of that is true, as anyone who has actually been in the area knows. There was no "renovation." 

That's a completely new stadium. The only thing left of the old stadium is the outer wall which acts as a facade with a few toliets in it, and the new one sprawls up skyward over the top of that old wall. They could just as easily have knocked that entire structure down and built a stadium with bigger seating capacity—and probably should have—except for all of the historical preservationist, who now want nothing to do with it  because of its odd look. 

The original stadium in the 1920s cost $13 million and is just a fence now for the burgeoning space ship rising upward that cost $630 million.

That 1920s stadium had so outlived its usefulness by the 1980s that it should have been demolished in a mercy killing anyway.

The inside of the new stadium is actually nice, although not quite as large of a place as Chicago deserves with the league's smallest seating capacity of 61,500. The city skyline provides a unique backdrop. 

The newsletter article on the stadium is a bit dated because it blasts the turf of Soldier Field. There was a severe problem with turf for decades but two years ago it ended when they began importing deeper sections of sod from the New Jersey area and the grass took hold nicely. They haven't had trouble since then.

This entire suggestion of an Arlington Heights Stadium is logical but ultimately the demolition and then construction of a new stadium would require much time and money from cash-strapped northwest suburban communities. Those towns are going to face a severe tax shortage in coming years as a result of first, the recession, and then the COVID-induced decline in the economy.

It just isn't happening unless it's entirely privately funded and it's hard to see why or how the McCaskey family could ever fork out the kind of cash from their own pockets for a Jerry Jones-type monstrosity when they can pay a paltry $6.3 million for rent. The McCaskeys' only source of income is the team and they don't have the ability to do what Jones did in Dallas.

Thinking the land would just sit there for a decade until the Bears' lease runs out, while a casino could have been there all the time making money for the community, just doesn't make much sense.  

Once again, this stadium idea will die its usual death until someone else decides to revive it in a few years, or until a struggling NFL team with an owner who wants to move gets in touch with the people who own the land.

There's one other possibility. With anti-NFL sentiment running high these days for whatever reason, it wouldn't be a total shock if a new league formed for fall football competing against the NFL with a Chicago team as a centerpiece, or an Arlington Heights team anyway.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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