Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday addressed concerns over the Chicago Bears reported interest in moving from downtown’s Soldier Field to the suburbs.
During a press conference Thursday, Lightfoot was asked about the Bears flirting with the idea of a move to Arlington Park.
“I’ve seen a couple of reports. But a couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033 and the NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” Lightfoot said.
It’s not the first time this idea has been looked into. In 1987, Bears ownership reported discussed the possibility of a new stadium at Arlington Park, but their lease at Soldier Field at the time ran through 1999.
The Mayor of Arlington Heights told Crain’s Chicago Business that after recent discussions with a team executive, the Bears aren’t ruling out leaving Chicago and that new stadium on the site of Arlington Racecourse remains a possibility.
Lightfoot said she had discussions with team management as well that focused on making improvements to help the team navigate limited capacity and other challenges Soldier Field presents given it’s location.
“I was just on a call with a senior leadership in the last two weeks. So there are things that they’d like to see differently at Soldier Field, and we want to do whatever we can to accommodate it,” Lightfoot said. “It’s a great iconic site, but it’s a challenging site.”
Lightfoot was also asked if she believes the Bears are revisiting the idea of potentially relocating as leverage to boost capacity in Soldier Field.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us as a city to step up and look at ways in which we can make sure that Bears fans, but also the Bears as an organization, have the best opportunities to maximize the fan experience and of course, maximize revenues. So we’re going to keep those conversations going,” Lightfoot said.
During Thursday’s press conference, Lightfoot announced that the city will loosen its current COVID-19 restrictions as Chicago has both improved its metrics to reopen and increased vaccinations.
The new changes to the current Phase 4 guidelines include:
- Restaurants and bars: Indoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people.
- Spectator events, theater, and performing arts: Large indoor venues, including the United Center, can now operate at 25% capacity.
- Meetings, conferences, and conventions: Large indoor venues can now operate at the lesser of 25% or 250 people.
- Places of worship: Large indoor venues can now operate at 25% capacity.
- Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events: Operate at 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Flea and farmers markets: Operate at 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
Under the new guidelines, some regulations remain in place, officials said, like the requirement to keep six feet of social distancing and that face coverings can be removed only in limited circumstances.