The Chicago Bears have been playing at Soldier Field since 1971, but that's something that could be changing in the near future. The Bears are apparently thinking about relocating to Arlington Heights, which is a suburb that sits roughly 30 miles outside of Chicago.
For the Bears, the allure of Arlington Heights comes from the fact that the city is about to have 326 acres available where a new stadium could be built. The land is currently occupied by the Arlington Park race track, but that building is likely going to be sold in the coming months with the expectation that the new buyer is going to tear it down and re-develop the site.
During an interview last week, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes revealed the Bears were "seriously considering" a move to the site.
"Certainly, the Arlington Park site is available and we would consider the Chicago Bears a great fit for that particular site," Hayes said, via Fox 32 in Chicago. "I think the Bears are seriously considering it because it's such a unique piece of property. It has so much going for it in terms of its location in the northwest suburbs where a lot of their audience is."
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A Bears executive didn't deny that the team was mulling a possible move when asked about it by Crain's Chicago Business last week. The race track in Arlington Heights is about 30 miles away from Soldier Field, so Bears fans in Chicago would still be within easy traveling distance of a potential new stadium.
Even if the Bears want to move though, it's not going to be so easy. As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently pointed out, the team has a lease at Solider Field for at least the next 13 seasons.
"I've seen a couple of reports [of a possible move] but a couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033 and the NFL doesn't let any teams break their leases," Lightfoot said.
Despite the fact that there's a lease in place, Hayes isn't discounting a possible move before 2033.
"I know there's contracts involved and lease agreements," Hayes said. "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."
It seems the Bears are hoping to get some renovations done at Solider Field and it's possible they want the city to help pay for the project. Lightfoot admitted to talking to the Bears in recent weeks, but didn't specify whether the team asked the city to help with anything.
"It's a great, iconic site," Lightfoot said of Soldier Field. "But it's a challenging site, and I think it's incumbent on us as a city to step up and look at ways in which we can make sure that the Bears fans, but also the Bears as an organization, have the best opportunities to maximize the fan experience and, of course, maximize revenues."
Soldier Field opened in 1924 and hasn't undergone any sort of major renovation since 2003. The stadium only seats 61,500 and due to spacial constraints, it's unlikely that number will ever be expanded by much, which might be one reason why the Bears eventually make the move to Arlington Heights.