Would the Chicago Bears Ever Leave Chicago?


With a number of NFL teams on the move, would the Chicago Bears ever leave Chicago?

The Chicago Bears are as much a part of the city of Chicago as deep dish pizza, hot dogs with no ketchup and political corruption.  It’s hard to imagine an autumn Sunday without football on the city’s lakefront.  With the Chargers announcement that they’ll be following the Rams to Los Angeles, it got me to thinking if the Bears would ever pack up and move out of Chicago.

There’s certainly precedent for the Bears to move.  I’m sure the unsuspecting residents of Decatur never saw it coming that their beloved Staleys would pack up and move upstate to Chicago.  Of course the Bears weren’t the only team to move.  It’s been going on for decades in all of the major sports.

Perhaps one of the worst break-ups between a team and a city happened in March of 1984 when the Baltimore Colts loaded up Mayflower moving trucks and split town under the cover of night.

Fans are still bitter to this day:

It’s not that long ago that the Bears actually threatened to leave Chicago.  Before Soldier Field was renovated following the 2001 season, the Bears were embattled in a bitter negotiation with the City of Chicago to get a new stadium.  Bears president at the time Michael McCaskey and Mayor Richard Daley couldn’t see eye to eye on the deal and McCaskey threatened to move the team across the border to Gary, Indiana.

"McCaskey kicked off the season with a threat to move the team elsewhere unless Chicago put its money where its team loyalty was.Mayor Richard Daley quickly followed with the challenge, “Let them move to Alaska.”"

In the end, McCaskey was pushed aside and Ted Phillips headed up the negotiations and a deal was brokered that limited the money the McCaskeys shelled out and publicly funded the new Soldier Field.  (He was later rewarded by the organization and named President and CEO, a role he holds to this day.)

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Many, myself included, believe the Soldier Field renovations were botched.  The Bears should have footed the bill and built their own stadium.  Instead, they got in bed with the city and got one of the smallest stadiums in the NFL that’s not even owned by the team.  They can’t host any major events or ever hope to get a Super Bowl with Soldier Field in its current configuration.

I can see a day in the not too distant future where the Bears may want a new stadium.  I don’t see another deal with the city or the state, both of which have budget crises of their own.  That could lead the team to seek greener, field turfier pastures.

The other X-factor is the ownership.  The day will come when Virginia McCaskey joins Papa Bear Halas in the great gridiron in the sky.  When that day comes, the rest of the McCaskeys may be compelled to sell.  If the team is sold, don’t be so sure that the new owners wouldn’t look to move the team.

I can’t picture the city of Chicago without the Bears, but I’m sure the fine people of Baltimore never imagined their city without the Colts or Chargers fans thought their beloed Bolts would head to LA.  I can assure you of this, if the Bears ever moved, I’d continue to follow them regardless of where they end up, if it’s in the suburbs, into Indiana or as the charter franchise on Mars.