Our Opinion: The Bears haven't been this far down the road with a suburban suitor
If a vague 2023 closing date on the Chicago Bears' $197.2 million purchase of Arlington Park racetrack had given you reason to think Arlington Heights will be just another in a long list of suburban backup plans for Chicago sports enterprises, you might be thinking a little differently today.
News from Halas Hall Wednesday night that the Bears have hired at least three firms to further explore what the team could do with Arlington Park's 326 acres suggests the team is truly serious about a move to the suburbs.
Chief among those outfits is Kansas City-based Manica Architecture, which designed Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for the relocated Raiders. That stadium opened in 2020.
Manica also drew up plans for the now three-year-old Chase Center in San Francisco, where the Golden State Warriors now play.
Manica has the hot hand these days in stadium design.
How fitting that the designer of one of the two newest stadiums in the NFL might create something that would replace the oldest stadium in the league -- the 20-year-old spaceship retrofit of Soldier Field notwithstanding.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot clearly viewed the Bears' interest in Arlington Heights as another in a line of stood-up prom dates -- and why wouldn't she?
The Bears have been down this road many times before -- with Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Aurora, Elk Grove Village and Waukegan. And once before with Arlington Heights.
You can almost picture the Bears, as Lucy, ripping the football away from Charlie Brown in each case.
Lightfoot dismissed the Bears' leaving the lakefront as another ploy. But now City Hall feels the Bears slipping away.
We should never underestimate Chicago's ability to pull off a miracle deal to keep the team within city limits. We know that while the 2002 re-imagining of Soldier Field did not plan for a dome that one could be retrofitted there.
But that still would leave Soldier Field the smallest in the league with just 61,500 seats and no room to develop an accompanying entertainment campus.
So, what does Arlington Heights Village President Tom Hayes think of the latest news?
"We're very far past the hypothetical stage," he told us Thursday. "It's very exciting news."
It certainly is. But we've been here before. The hiring of Manica as well as a management consultant and a real estate firm has been brought on -- for now -- only to evaluate the viability of Arlington Park as a stadium/entertainment campus.
We've been down this road before, but not nearly this far.
Please don't pull the football away at the last second, Bears.