'Build a big Taj Mahal': Season ticket holders pumped by possible Bears experience in the 'burbs
Suburban Bears fans with season tickets at Soldier Field seemed to be universally pumped Wednesday over the news that the team had entered a purchase agreement for Arlington Park.
Easier travel and parking and the quality of a new stadium's amenities were among the first things that sprang to mind for those who have made a tradition of regular autumnal visits to Chicago's lakefront.
"Soldier Field is a beautiful place, but it costs $100 to tailgate and it's hard to get to," said Tom Shanahan of Glen Ellyn. "The best part of a Bears game is the tailgating, because the Bears have been awful for so long."
Shanahan was among those who said they're fine with cold weather, but a domed stadium in Arlington Heights might be a better alternative for the Bears and their fans.
Dave LaCerra of Mount Prospect agrees that a retractable roof should be an ingredient of an Arlington Heights stadium for the opportunities it creates, though he said he's long believed weather should be a factor in a football game.
He added that 326 acres and the right engineering know-how should make it possible for the Arlington Park site to avoid the logistical issues fans have had to endure at Soldier Field.
"I think you owe it to the Bears and their fans to build a big Taj Mahal to football, reflective of the fact that we're the oldest (NFL) franchise," LaCerra said. "I don't have any allegiance to Soldier Field whatsoever."
While some have cited the fact that Soldier Field is a monument to the nation's armed forces, LaCerra said he once asked his now late father, a Marine veteran, whether he would feel slighted if it were ever replaced as the home of the Bears.
"He said, 'Absolutely not. If you make it better, why is that a bad thing?'"
Rick Doering of Barrington said that while Soldier Field is an adequate facility that has served the Bears well, visits to other NFL venues like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, have demonstrated to him how much more is possible.
"Soldier Field is a rented facility for the NFL," Doering said. "At most other venues, it's the crown jewel of the town. It's a whole, all-day entertainment atmosphere around there. And you just don't have that at Soldier Field."
Doering said he would plan to almost always take Metra from Barrington to Arlington Park if the Bears moved to the site. He believes the bars and restaurants all along the train route would benefit.
For Amy Stuart of Hampshire, a Bears move would likely replace a seven-year tradition of getting a hotel room in Chicago the night before game day.
Like Doering, Stuart said she's felt a pang of envy at some of the other NFL stadiums she's visited, including being able to pull right into an adjacent parking garage in Detroit.
"Just the convenience of getting into and out of the stadium," she said. "It's not an all-day thing."
Given the size and location of the Arlington Park site, Stuart said she doesn't see why many of the things she admired in other cities couldn't happen here.
The only potential downside is the time it might take her to get accustomed to a change in the Chicago Bears experience she's known since she was 7. But she would take comfort in knowing the team's fan base would be intact.
"It's the fans that make the team, not the stadium that makes the team," Stuart said.