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The Doming of Soldier Field

Mayor of Chicago reportedly makes one last play to keep the Bears out of Arlington Heights.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to put together one last desperate attempt to save the Bears for the city.

According to Greg Hinz of  Chicago Business, she has assembled a committee to explore putting a dome over Soldier Field to keep the Bears from fleeing to Arlington Heights and a new stadium at the old racetrack property.

My how the times have changed. For years the big problem with Soldier Field was the ugly combination of modern architecture rising up out of the classical Roman columns. 

Now they're going to put a lid on it?

It was former Rams kicker Mike Lansford who famously said on an NFL Films production along the sidelines at the old Soldier Field in the 1985 NFC championship game that they "...should put a dome on this place." Apparently he was simply ahead of his time.

Of course, this is going to require much more than a roof. The estimated cost of $400 million to $1.5 billion would need to include renovations to the stadium because the stadium, as it stands, is not conducive to simply putting on a lid. 

They would likely also have to come up with a sports book for the property, which was reportedly a possible issue that led to the Bears pursuing Arlington International Racecourse in the first place.  

Bears CEO Ted Phillips in January said the property deal for the racetrack would be closed on in early 2023.

"At that point in time, we'll decide whether it’s financially feasible to try to develop it further, and what's important now is that our focus for long-term development is exclusively on that property at Arlington Park," Phillips said at the time.

So there is a built-in window of opportunity for Lightfoot to make her Hail Mary play.

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Lightfoot might be able to put a lid over the facility but she can't lift it up out of downtown Chicago and all of its current problems.

The only appealing aspects of such a situation for the Bears are the cost and the lakefront beauty, but the scenery is easily offset by the horrible traffic problems games create in Chicago. And, of course, there is the crime problem the city now faces.

The money would obviously be the draw for the Bears because they wouldn't need to find ways to fund a stadium project in Arlington Heights that would cost into the billions of dollars and likely would have little or no public funding.

The Soldier Field site would be able to command some public funds because it is through Chicago and the park district, although the city claims not to have money for many more essential problems than a stadium improvement.

The Bears already have hired the architectural firm from Kansas City that designed the Las Vegas Raiders' domed stadium, Manica Architecture. They also have hired consultants who helped the Cubs with some of the Wrigley Field renovation project. 

Their bid on the 365 acres for the facility was $197.2 million.

So they obviously haven't just been sitting on their hands waiting for Lightfoot to persuade them to stay on in a lease that doesn't expire until after the 2033 season.

The Daily Herald has reported there would be multiple uses for the property because it's so large. One would be to also build a minor league baseball stadium seating 4,000 fans at the location.

Soldier Field was built in 1927, then gutted and an entirely new stadium was built within the remaining outer walls of the old stadium for the start of the 2003 season. So, this will be their 20th season in the new Soldier Field.

Soldier Field is also the home for the Chicago Fire soccer team and hosts both concerts and other sporting events.

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