Chicago Bears make a bid to buy Arlington Park, good thing or bad thing?

Chicago Bears (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears announced today that they officially made a bid to purchase Arlington Park. Social media is in a frenzy as usual, and most of the things I am seeing are all positive and filled with excitement. As an invested season-ticket holder, I am going to do my best to be objective. One thing is for sure, this move does not signal the team is selling anytime soon.

On the surface, this should be exciting news. This means the team is considering all options when it comes to creating a new experience. With the smallest stadium in the NFL now, the Chicago Bears know they are losing out on ticket revenue. Not to mention, not owning their own stadium (they lease from the Park District) makes things more rigid and difficult at times.

However, let us look back at what took place the last time the Bears wanted a new stadium, shall we? When the Chicago Bears decided that Soldier Field needed to be renovated back in 2002, many had hoped they would tear everything down and build a new, state-of-the-art stadium. Instead, we got the space ship that landed inside of the old Soldier Field walls.

The stadium only holds 61,500 seatas and is now the smalles stadium in the NFL. Many have called the stadium the “mistake by the lake”. Honestly, they weren’t wrong. How does the third-largest sports market have the smallest stadium in the NFL? Of course the Chicago Bears want to make a change just shy of 20 years later. Wouldn’t you if you were constantly ridiculed by the media and fans for your stadium? The thing is, not everyone is going to be happy about a move.

Some Chicago Bears fans could be out an investment

What does it mean for those people who decided to buy the personal seat license (PSL) when the current stadium was being built back in 2002? Well, it likely means more money out of your pocket or forfeit your current tickets.

The crazy thing is that the value of the PSL has gone up over the years and you can sell them through a marketplace. The going rate for tickets in similar seats to ours was between $25,000 and $35,000 per seat. With the news that the team put in a bid for Arlington Park, those PSL are going to be essentially worthless now.

The thing is, the Chicago Bears don’t care. The NFL doesn’t care. And honestly, anyone who doesn’t own PSLs shouldn’t care. Why? Well, despite my personal bias towards the situation, this is likely a good thing for the organization. From a fan perspective, I don’t see the hype though unless you are attracted by the idea of not having to travel into the downtown area or you are towards the top of the season-ticket waiting list.

The ticket prices are likely to go up, the cost of concessions will likely go up and none of that will help translate to a better on-the-field product. Again, more positives for the McCaskey family and company, but how does that benefit us fans? Will the experience be that much better? I personally doubt it. The stadium seats are fairly comfortable, the legroom is decent too (I am 6’3″). I’d look forward to bigger, better video screens, but again, the current screens are not awful.

Maybe Arlington Heights could have a better parking situation or at least a better traffic pattern to get fans in and out of the tailgating lots more easily. However, I’m not so sure Arlington Heights would do any better of a job than the bottleneck that happens off Lake Shore Drive.

The biggest positive for Chicago Bears fans would mean new season tickets

The only true positive outside of those wanting Soldier Field to be closer to home in Arlington Heights is that the capacity should increase (it can’t get any smaller, right?). This will allow fans who have been on the waiting list to finally get the call for a chance to purchase season tickets. I do think this positive would benefit many and I cannot sit here and complain about the current season-ticket situation without sounding privileged. I just can’t and I fully understand that.

If done right, this will be a positive for the team and thousands of fans seeking the opportunity to finally have the ability to buy season tickets. Obviously, as an organization, I cannot fault them for making this move either. And let’s be honest, they have to win the bid first. However, even if they don’t, it gives them some leverage with the city and the park district. Maybe they can force their hands and the team builds a new stadium somewhere else in Chicago.

This would not change the outcome of the positives/negatives outside of those wanting Soldier Field to be in the suburbs. It would still be an increase in capacity and an increase in new season-ticket holders. However, a new stadium would be a new stadium whether it was in the suburbs or Chicago. Honestly, I never thought we’d be talking about this right now. With the current lease through 2033, I never thought the Bears would pay to break the lease and build new.

Other positives that the team and franchise could see is if the new Soldier Field (different name obviously) is large enough, with some type of dome or retractable roof, then it’s possible the Chicago Bears could host a future Super Bowl. I have seen many fans on the fence here as they want to see “Bear weather” in the colder months. Again, what does a Super Bowl do for you or me as a a fan? Unless the Chicago Bears are in it, why should we care if it is here in Illinois or not?

Would this mean a better field for the players to play on too? We have all seen the chunks of grass and sod ripped up on the field from player’s cleats. There is always the concern of injuries too. Would the team go to some type of turf as opposed to the type of grass they have now? These are all questions we will not know the answers to for quite some time. Even if the team wins the bid for Arlington Park, it would likely take at least a full year to build the stadium. Soldier Field took around 20 months.

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Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Overall, the Chicago Bears buying Arlington Park is likely a good thing. It would negatively affect some like myself, but it would be a great business decision for the McCaskey family. Maybe this means better equipment, better fields, better experiences for the players, or even better experiences for the fans. It will definitely mean more revenue for ownership which could lead to a higher salary cap for players.

It is not likely to be all that great for fans though (unless you are one of the lucky ones to get new season tickets), but for the owners, the team, the players and for the city of Arlington Heights, it’s all positives.