The Chicago Bears could be undergoing some major changes over the next few years and one of those changes could involve a move out of Soldier Field, where the team has been playing since 1971.
The Bears are apparently considering relocating to Arlington Heights, which is a suburb that sits roughly 30 miles outside of Chicago. During an interview on Monday, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes made it clear that it’s still completely possible the Bears might move to his city.
“It’s still on the table, to my understanding, but it’s a complete, definite ‘maybe,'” Hayes said, via the Daily Herald. “I’m not in a position where I could say it’s a definite ‘go’ or definite ‘no go.'”
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 soon going to be sold with the expectation that the new buyer is going to tear it down and re-develop the site.
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According to the Herald, one key deadline in the sale of the race track is coming up on Tuesday (June 15) as that’s the final day for developers and investors to submit an offer to Churchill Down Inc., the company that currently owns the property. If the Bears are thinking about a move to Arlington Heights, they’d almost certainly have to put in some sort of bid themselves by the deadline or find a company/developer to work with to put in a bid.
Back in late April, a Bears executive didn’t deny that the team was mulling a possible move when asked about it by Crain’s Chicago Business. Of course, one thing that could throw a wrench into any plans of leaving Soldier Field is that the Bears have a lease to play there for the next 13 seasons. When asked about the lease back in April, Hayes didn’t seem too concerned.
“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.”
Soldier Field only seats 61,500 and due to spacial constraints, it’s unlikely that number will ever be expanded by much, which could be one reason why the Bears might be eyeing Arlington Heights. Renovating Soldier Field would also be an expensive proposition and at this point, the team might feel that building a new stadium would be a better overall value. (A renovation of Soldier Field in 2004 cost $690 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.)
Besides the stadium issue, there’s also been a report that the Bears could soon be for sale due to “internal strife” among the family members that own the team. With the possibility of both a new stadium and new owners coming in the near future, the Windy City could soon be hit with the winds of change.