With the start of the NFL season upon us, I decided to look at one of the major stories from the NFL off-season. In February, the Chicago Bears closed on a plot of land in suburban Arlington Heights, to complete a purchase that had been agreed to 18 months prior. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they would build a stadium on the land and move to Arlington Heights, but some developments over the last few months have put those plans in jeopardy and have led to the Bears looking at other options. I’m here to tell you why at the end of the day, they’re going to leave Soldier Field and eventually move to Arlington Heights.
Back in May, the Bears got into a dispute with the town over the value of the land and what their property tax bill should be. This is just posturing. The reason they’ve been looking to move from Soldier Field to begin with is because of money and control. Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL, the Bears don’t own it, there’s no roof, and because the stadium name is a tribute to the military, the city of Chicago won’t allow naming rights to be sold.
If the Bears build a stadium in Arlington Heights, they can build a stadium bigger than Soldier Field, they can sell naming rights, they would own it, and they could put a roof on the stadium. Even if the city renovated Soldier Field (again) to make it bigger and put a roof on it, the Bears still wouldn’t own it. The roof and the ownership are the 2 biggest reasons why the Bears will eventually move.
Because the Bears don’t own Soldier Field, they don’t get the revenue from non-gameday events such as concerts or college games. In the first year of Cowboys Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys turned a PROFIT of 12M on those events. Because Soldier Field has no roof, Chicago doesn’t get marquee events like the Super Bowl, Final 4, the Big 10 Championship Game, or the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Neighboring Indianapolis with their roof gets all of these events. A world class city like Chicago should have these kind of events. If they built a modern world class stadium, they might even be able to stage an annual college football game similar to how Dallas and Atlanta have one every year.
In addition to owning the stadium and a roof to attract marquee events and get the revenues from those events, the Bears didn’t just buy a plot of land to build a stadium. They bought a 326 acre complex. My fellow writer Davood Denavi thinks the Bulls Hawks and Sox might team up with the Bears to build new stadiums in the complex, but I don’t. Even though the United Center is 30 years old, it is still considered a world class arena and is up to modern standards. It’s the largest capacity in the NBA and second largest in the NHL. The Bulls and Hawks aren’t complaining about a lack of revenues. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As for the White Sox, it is a possibility, but given what has played out in other MLB markets with 2 teams, it’s very possible that the Cubs will block it, similar to how the San Francisco Giants blocked the Oakland A’s from moving to San Jose.
Rather than building another stadium, the Bears are planning to build a mixed use development, including a housing complex and a retail complex, similar to how the Patriots have done with Gillette Stadium. They have a shopping dining and entertainment complex right next to the stadium. Which gives them more revenues to put into their team. However, unlike MLB and the NBA, the NFL has a hard cap on what teams can spend on payroll. Bears fans might think that this will give them the revenues to build a better team, but as a Packers fan, I can assure you it won’t. Their failures on the field are due to ineptitude and incompetence from the front office. I want them to get their new stadium in Arlington Heights for the possibilities it would bring from the other events, but I still hope for them to go 0-17 every year.
In the words of Homer Jay Simpson: Let the Bears pay the Bear Tax! I pay the Homer Tax!