Chicago Mayor Dashes Hopes for Bears Fans at Soldier Field
Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued to line up with Illinois Gov. James Pritzker in keeping a foot down on any possible chance for fans at sporting events in the city of Chicago throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
In an appearance on The Score, AM-670 Friday, Lightfoot painted a negative picture for the Bears having fans at Soldier Field even though several NFL stadiums have had fans so far and more are planning it this weekend.
Lightfoot also suggested the Bears aren't cooperating with the city enough in possible reopening of the stadium. Bears board chairman George McCaskey last week said the team is still hopeful of having fans at some point this season.
"It's certainly possible, but I would say the odds are less than 50 percent," Lightfoot said on the Mully & Haugh Show.
The Cowboys are planning to allow up to 25% of their 80,000-seat capacity for their home opener this week. The Miami Dolphins are planning to allow a maximum of 13,000 fans.
The Cleveland Browns on Thursday let in 6,000 fans for their game with the Cincinnati Bengals. At last week's NFL season opener, the Kansas City Chiefs allowed in 15,895 for their banner-raising celebration and game with the Houston Texans.
The Indianapolis Colts are planning to allow 2,500 fans for their home opener Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
There has been a report one fan at Kansas City had COVID-19 and it led to testing of fans who had been sitting in this area.
"We have been very, very prudent in our approach to reopening," Lightfoot said. "We still remain the most open big city in the country.
Illinois' positive testing rate for COVID-19 is at 3.6% and the Chicago rate is 5%.
Both Chicago Major League Baseball teams are in first place but no fans have been able to see them in person, although MLB has agreed not to let fans in as a policy. The NFL has no such uniform policy and has left it to teams and their venues to sort it out.
Originally the Bears said there wouldn't be fans for the foreseeable future but McCaskey in his preseason talk with Chicago media suggested it was possible.
"It's a complicated thing," Lightfoot told the Score. "I can't just react to someone saying, 'Oh, yeah, we want to get fans in the stands.' It's not going to be that easy, and it's not going to happen unless we have real dialogue and a real conversation about the nuts and bolts, the granularity that's going be needed to even talk about a plan for having fans in the stands. That hasn't happened yet. We're certainly open to it.
"I don't like hearing for the first time on sports media, 'Oh, yeah, we're going to have fans in the stands.' Yeah, that's not going to happen. Talk to the Cubs."
The Bears brought out a press release on the topic after Lightfoot's comments.
"We have had weekly communication with the Mayor’s office on a variety of topics relating to the pandemic including fans at Soldier Field," the release said. "In mid-August we reviewed a detailed plan with city and public health officials to assess the feasibility of allowing a limited number of fans to attend Bears games. The plan was the result of weeks of collaboration among the Bears, ASM Global, the Chicago Park District and health experts. It addresses City, State and NFL guidelines to ensure a safe environment for everyone inside the stadium.
"After the review, all parties agreed the timing to welcome fans was not right given the current health metrics. On August 17, both the Bears and City issued statements referencing the plan, the collaboration and the hope to return fans to Soldier Field, but not until health metrics improved. We continue to work closely with members of the Mayor’s staff on monitoring the environment, assessing the plan and determining the right time to bring fans back."
Generally, it sounds as if it can't happen for the Bears according to Lightfoot.
"We're nowhere near at a place where we can even realistically talk about fans coming back to Soldier Field," Lightfoot said.