The Chicago Bears have been playing at Soldier Field since 1971, but that's something that could be changing in the near future and that potential change isn't sitting well with the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot.
The Bears announced on Thursday that the team has made a bid to purchase a 326-acre chunk of land in Arlington Heights with hopes of eventually building a new stadium there. The piece of land in Arlington Heights, which is currently occupied by a horse track, sits just outside of Chicago at a spot roughly 35 miles away from Soldier Field.
After learning of the team's bid, Lightfoot released a statement and in that statement she took a hilarious shot at the team. According to Lightfoot, the Bears need to spend less time focusing on a potential move and more time focusing on "beating the Packers."
"As a season-ticket holder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the 'Chicago' name in our football team," Lightfoot said. "And like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise."
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Lightfoot also accused the Bears of using the bid as a negotiation ploy to get the city to help fund some much-needed renovations at Soldier Field.
"As part of the city's recovery, many organizations are doubling down on their commitment to Chicago, and we expect the Chicago Bears to follow suit," Lightfoot said. "The Bears are locked into a lease at Soldier Field until 2033. In addition, this announcement from the Bears comes in the midst of negotiations for improvements at Soldier Field. This is clearly a negotiating tactic that the Bears have used before."
Ideally, the Bears would probably prefer to stay at Soldier Field, but that won't be easy or cheap. The stadium, which was built in 1924, only seats 61,500 and due to spatial constraints, it's unlikely that number will ever be expanded by much. Also, renovating Soldier Field would be an expensive proposition and, at this point, the team might feel that building a new stadium at Arlington Heights would be a better overall value. (A renovation of Soldier Field in 2004 cost $690 million, according to the Chicago Tribune, so it's likely that price tag would only be higher if the Bears did another renovation now).
As for the lease that Lightfoot mentioned -- the Bears are under contract to play at Solider Field for 13 more seasons -- the mayor of Arlington Heights, Tom Hayes, doesn't seem too concerned about that.
"I know there's contracts involved and lease agreements," Hayes said back in April. "But a good attorney will tell you, you can always get out of those. There might be a significant price involved, but I would think if they wanted to make it happen, they could make it happen."
Of course, the Bears threat to build a new stadium won't mean anything if they don't end up purchasing the land in Arlington Heights, and right now, there's no guarantee that they're going to get it. The company that owns the land, Churchill Downs Inc., has received multiple bids for the property and will weigh its options over the next few months.
"The Village will be working with the listing broker to closely review proposals by all potential users in the coming months," Hayes told NBC Chicago this week. "Whether the final purchaser is the Chicago Bears or someone else, our goal is to determine which concept will be most beneficial to Arlington Heights from a long-term economic and community development perspective."
If the Bears end up with the winning bid, then things are going to get interesting, because that will give them the land they need to build a new stadium. However, if someone else wins the bid, then the Bears are going to have to make up with Lightfoot and figure out how to get renovations done at Soldier Field.