Some Bears fans, South Loop business owners have mixed feelings about potential move to Arlington Heights

As the Bears faithful gathered ahead of the team’s rain-drenched opening win on Sunday, the specter of a potential move to Arlington Heights loomed like the storm clouds over Soldier Field.

The matchup with the San Francisco 49ers came just three days after a pivotal community meeting in the northwest suburb, where Bears Chairman George McCaskey vowed the team would “be good neighbors” while conceding the massive development would rely, in part, on taxpayer money.

Hundreds of those fans were at Reggies Chicago, 2105 S. State St., before. Reggies owner Robby Glick hopes the team stays put.

“I’m a Chicagoan, I’m a Bears fan,” said Glick, a season ticket holder. “I don’t want them to move. I want the team to be in the city. I would love to see the Bears stay at Soldier.

“But I say that selfishly. I want the business, and I don’t want to go all the way out to Arlington Heights.”

Reggies was packed by 9:40 a.m., with over 400 people circulating through the bar, a standard crowd for home games. Fans who clamored for cocktails and the bar’s $15 all-you-can-eat buffet were eventually offered free rides to and from the stadium aboard old school buses.

Bears fans get on a bus outside Reggies Chicago on Sunday for a free ride to Soldier Field.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Glick said he understands why the Bears want to leave, even if it would cut into his game-day business. Other fans made similar concessions, spouting off a laundry list of grievances.

They complained the stadium is one of the smallest in the league; there’s dome protecting fans from inclement weather; lines for restrooms and concessions are too long; there’s never enough parking; the train stops are too far away.

Kevin Conley stopped by Reggies with his brother before heading to Soldier Field. Weather aside, Conley was thrilled to head to the game, his first as a season-ticket holder.

But he’s also excited about the prospect of a possible new stadium with more seats, better amenities and easier access.

“I’m all in for it,” said Conley, who lives in the city. “It’s a pain to get to the stadium now, plus it’s old and small. It would be equally as time consuming getting here as it is to get out to the new stadium.”

Other fans weren’t so optimistic.

“I’m not too happy about it,” said Blake Neal, a South Loop resident. “It’s unfortunate if they end up moving. We live right here and just became season-ticket holders. And with Reggies, we’re able to hang at the bar then take the bus straight to the stadium.”

It might be closer for people in the suburbs, Neal said, but it won’t be as close for people on the South Side.

Bears fans watch Sunday’s game at Kroll’s South Loop.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Just a few blocks away at Kroll’s South Loop, 1736 S. Michigan Ave., Bears fans were also split.

Jeremy Balfe, a Hyde Park resident who stopped in to watch the game, said he’s all for a new home field.

“Chicago deserves a bigger, better stadium,” Balfe said. “It’s an outdated stadium for many reasons. There needs to be a dome for bad weather days like today.It’d be great if Soldier could be improved and they could stay here, but I just don’t think that’s feasible.”

As for Nicole Steinmetz, the bar’s owner, the move from Soldier Field would be devastating for her business. Kroll’s is reliably packed before and after Bears games, Steinmetz said, and the bar stays busy with people coming by to watch.

“Home games make a huge difference for us,” she said. “I understand why they are looking to leave, but it would be awful for local businesses here.”

Chicago Bears fans endured a heavy rainfall in the fourth quarter of the team’s 19-10 win over San Francisco on Sunday. Among some fans’ complaints about Soldier Field? No roof.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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