Chicago's Hail Mary Attempt at Keeping the Bears

John Hill
27. July 2022
Image © Landmark Development Services Company, LLC

On July 25, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced proposals for renovations of Soldier Field, to entice the Chicago Bears to stay in the city rather then decamp for suburban Arlington Heights. (Last year the Bears signed an agreement to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse, where they are expected to build a new stadium.) It's been nearly twenty years since the insertion of a seating bowl by Wood + Zapata inside the 1924 colonnades of the original Solder Field. The stadium's capacity of 61,500 makes it the smallest — not to mention the oldest — facility in the NFL. Each of the proposals include more seating, suites, and area for food and beverage, all geared at turning Soldier Field into "a top tier NFL stadium."

Image © Landmark Development Services Company, LLC

The three options that "re-imagine Soldier Field for next generation" (the first two are catered to the Bears):

  • Option 1: Fully enclose the stadium by rebuilding both endzones with columns that can support a dome structure.
  • Option 2: Rebuild both endzones with columns to make the stadium dome ready.
  • Option 3: Modify Soldier Field to be a multi-purpose stadium better suited for soccer while improving its flexibility to accommodate major concerts and a range of events.
Image © Landmark Development Services Company, LLC

Regardless of the city's efforts to entice the Bears to stay, reports indicate that the NFL franchise will most likely make the move to Arlington Heights in order to build their own stadium (the team does not own Soldier Field). If all goes well for the Bears, the move would happen before their lease at Soldier Field expires in 2033 (they would pay a penalty for breaking the lease). Even with the move, a reimagined Soldier Field could happen, especially considering that landmark status was stripped from the building in 2006 due to the "incompatible construction and the destruction of substantial historic material" of its then-recent addition.

Image © Landmark Development Services Company, LLC

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