The Chicago Bears are taking steps that would enable them to leave Soldier Field. | Kamil Krzaczynski / AP
Even if they do leave Chicago, they’ll still be the source of endless exasperation, unfounded optimism, sporadic excitement — and three wasted hours on fall weekends.
So the Chicago Bears want to move to Arlington Heights. I say: Let them go.
I don’t say it with any animosity. It’s not even like I’m adding under my breath: And don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out.
All things being equal, I’d rather the Bears stayed in the city. But, if they want to go, go.
Really, it doesn’t matter.
As long as they don’t want a public subsidy to make the move (and I won’t believe that part until I see it accomplished), I wish them only the best.
The Bears are no great economic engine for the city. Their 10 home dates, which include the increasingly useless two preseason games, are just a drop in Burnham Harbor.
Everything else the Bears contribute to city life won’t go away just because they’re playing in the suburbs.
For starters, they’ll still be the Chicago Bears. It’s not like they’d be moving to Portland or Brooklyn. Your Bears jersey won’t be obsolete.
If you want to see a game, you’ll still be able to drive there. Or take Metra.
Tailgating won’t be as cool as it is along the lakefront, but people will adjust.
And let’s drop the bluster about them having to call themselves the Arlington Heights Bears if they move, which was nonsensical when first uttered by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1975 and has only grown more silly as it gets repeated through the years. That’s not how these things work.
They could move to Gary, Ind., or Iowa City, Iowa, and still call them the Chicago Bears if it suited their purposes.
Wherever the Bears play, they’ll still be the source of endless exasperation, unfounded optimism, sporadic excitement, occasional inspiration — and three wasted hours on fall weekends.
I’m a Bears fan dating to Bill Wade at quarterback and Ditka at tight end. But I’m content to watch them on television, which will still find a way to capture a view of the stadium that includes the city skyline, albeit in the distant background.
The New York football teams play in New Jersey. Washington’s football team plays in Maryland. The Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington. San Francisco plays in Santa Clara. Boston’s football team plays in Foxborough.
None of those cities is in any danger of drying up and blowing away. They haven’t lost their identity. Neither will Chicago.
True, this is a tenuous moment for Chicago, coming off the pandemic and the civil disturbances that have left downtown a shadow of itself.
But the Bears aren’t going anywhere just yet, and I remain confident urban living will bounce back from the pandemic. If we don’t, we’ve got a lot bigger worries than where the Bears choose to lose their games.
The future of Soldier Field is a legitimate concern. Without its anchor tenant, the finances of its upkeep could go south in a hurry. But Soldier Field has a life beyond the Bears.
I’ve never been as opposed to the current redesigned stadium as a lot of people. But I can see it’s become inadequate for the Bears’ needs and that the team could make more money at another location.
But I also remember that the revamped Soldier Field initially was a financial boon to the McCaskey family, greatly increasing the value of the team and their net worth.
People don’t seem to realize the McCaskeys aren’t like most wealthy sports team owners who make their fortune and then buy themselves a professional franchise. The McCaskeys’ wealth is the football team.
One of the strangest parts of this affair is that the Bears aren’t telling us what the plan is. They don’t have any public affairs firm making a case for a new stadium — in the city or Arlington Heights.
I’ve read how the Bears could make a privately owned stadium in Arlington Heights feasible — a loan from fellow NFL owners, selling personal seat licenses, naming rights. I still think they’re going to need a deep-pocketed real estate partner or help from taxpayers.
On the latter, the answer is no, absolutely not.
Go, Bears. Go in peace.