Daily Herald opinion: The guaranteed winner in city/suburban tug of war over the Bears is the team

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to "re-imagine" the Museum Campus, which includes Soldier Field, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. One looming question is whether the Chicago Bears will continue to play in Soldier Field after their lease is up.

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to "re-imagine" the Museum Campus, which includes Soldier Field, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. One looming question is whether the Chicago Bears will continue to play in Soldier Field after their lease is up. Chicago Sun-Times file photo

 
Updated 4/14/2022 8:23 AM
This editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a lot on the line and a lot on her mind these days -- where to put a casino, where to put the Chicago Bears and how to win reelection. And that's just the tip of her iceberg.

But it's clear she now believes Arlington Heights is a real player in the game of who lands the Bears.

 

In a pair of radio interviews last week, Lightfoot poo-pooed a potential move, saying Arlington Heights can't match the offer Chicago will make -- or its tourist trade.

"We have a working group to kind of look at the entirety of the Museum Campus, including Soldier Field," Lightfoot said. "I'm confident that the numbers work in our favor.

"Now, what the Bears ultimately do, they're going to do. But I'm confident that we can and will make a very compelling economic case for the Bears to stay in Chicago, far greater than anything that they could possibly get in any suburb, including Arlington Heights."

That's some saber-rattling, Madame Mayor.

While the prospect of reelection is much more imminent for Lightfoot than where the Bears end up, any signs that she is relenting to Arlington Heights would be the death of her political career.

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It was just a few months ago that Lightfoot was overtly dismissive of the Bears' purchase agreement for the 326 acres at Arlington Park Racecourse -- enough land for a world-class stadium plus all manner of ancillary entertainment businesses from which the team could profit.

By comparison, SoFi Stadium, the shiny new home of the L.A. Rams and San Diego Chargers, was built on just 298 acres.

If Lightfoot thinks she can keep the Bears at Soldier Field -- even with a dome -- she's nuts. The constraints of the NFL's smallest and oldest stadium won't allow Soldier Field to host a Super Bowl or, as is important to the team, to allow the Bears to do what has become commonplace around the league: develop the stadium as an entertainment complex that generates more cash.

Will Lightfoot offer up one of the two swaths of land south of Soldier Field at McCormick Place that she just dismissed as potential sites for Chicago's forthcoming casino?

Time will tell.

The Bears are aware they won't get state financing to pull the team out of Chicago, and they know Arlington Heights can't scrape up a few billion bucks, so they're planning to go it alone or with partners.

The only sure winner in this tug of war will be the football team.

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