CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she would “do what I can” to keep the Bears from abandoning Soldier Field and moving to the suburbs. However, nearly six weeks after the McCaskey family dropped a bombshell by announcing they had a $197M purchase agreement for Arlington International racetrack, it does not appear as though the mayor has personally made time to talk with team officials.
There has not been an in-person meeting, pre-planned telephone call or even a Zoom meeting between Lightfoot and anyone from the Bears organization between the beginning of June and end of October, according to the mayor’s public schedule. Bears Chairman George McCaskey did call Lightfoot in late September to notify her the suburban land deal hours before it was made public. That phone call was not reflected on her public schedule.
“They’ve got to come to the table,” Lightfoot told reporters September 29.
A Lightfoot spokesperson did not deny the mayor has yet to talk – let alone meet – with Bears officials about salvaging a Soldier Field deal.
“It’s very significant because it states very clearly she does not have any meaningful interest in working toward trying to retain the Bears,” said sports industry consultant Marc Ganis.
He added the blank canvas the Arlington Heights site offers may simply be too hard for the Bears to resist. In recent years, teams have shown a preference for building entertainment centers along with stadiums that offer a much more lucrative revenue stream.
Even if Lightfoot isn’t personally talking to Bears execs, several Chicago aldermen have expressed interest in finding a creative way to keep the team playing inside city limits.
“Chicago has a lot of vacant land and if there Bears are looking to build a brand new stadium with their money or the NFL’s money I think we should look at where that might go,” said 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman.
The mayor’s team says city staff members have spoken with team representatives.
“Mayor Lightfoot is a longtime fan and has expressed her willingness to continue dialogue with the Bears to keep them in Chicago, and staff at both the Bears and the city of Chicago have been in talks in recent weeks,” a mayoral spokesperson said in a written statement. “The city is exploring options that will enhance the visitor and fan experience at Soldier Field while protecting Chicago taxpayers.”