The Bears Are Perfectly Content to Let Those Arlington Heights Rumors Linger

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The Bears Are Perfectly Content to Let Those Arlington Heights Rumors Linger

Chicago Bears

I don’t think I’m being too naive when I say that most rumors of the Bears moving out of Soldier Field (and into the empty/for-sale Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights) land a little light. As Luis put it previously, it’s simply difficult to imagine the Bears leaving Solider Field to spend their own money on a state-of-the-art complex in Arlington Heights, especially when their lease in Chicago doesn’t expire until the early 2030s. And, indeed, the only thing more difficult to envision is sourcing public money to build that stadium (especially right now).

However, the mere *existence* of those Arlington Heights rumors can serve a very useful purpose for the Bears (and the NFL). In fact, I believe that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

At this moment, the Bears are negotiating with the City of Chicago on the return of fans to the stadium when football kicks back off this fall. More specifically, the team/league is negotiating the percent of total stadium capacity that will be allowed (the Chicago Fire already has a deal in place with the city, allowing up to 25% capacity, but it’s very likely the Bears are seeking something much greater than that).

Citing the success of the Cubs and White Sox limited fan capacity, as well as the three month head start on finalizing an agreement (and taming the virus), Scott Hagel, the team’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, says he’s encouraged and that things are progressing nicely. Likewise, the city’s official comment is that the Bears have been a good partner. So *maybe* there’s nothing new there. Maybe everyone really is playing nice.

However, that’s not all Hagel said. Or rather, that’s not all he didn’t say.

When asked about the Bears interest in the Arlington Heights property, Hagel evidently refused to answer with any clarity, even after he was reminded that such a denial would result in a pretty obvious conclusion (emphasis mine):

“I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” said Hagel, who gave an interview a day after I first called the team asking them to comment on the Arlington rumor.

When asked directly if the team has begun talks with Churchill Downs, Hagel replied, “our priority is about Soldier Field.”

When told that such a statement left the impression that other possibilities are on the table, Hagel said, “Our focus continues to be on Soldier Field. . . .I can’t say more.”

Certainly, by the fall, Soldier Field *should* be able to host more than 25% capacity, given the trajectory of the virus and vaccine rollout, so I’m not surprised to see the team seeking something greater than the 25% already (presumably) on the table. Indeed, you can expect greater than 25% at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate by then, too. At the same time, you could see why the city would want to wait as long as possible to make that decision (the closer we are to Week 1, the easier the decision should be).

Of course, for however long the city wants to wait, you can imagine the league/team wanting an answer even sooner for ticket sales, planning purposes, revenue expectations, etc – thus, the Arlington Heights rumors.

If the Bears can keep those rumors alive, they’ll maintain at least a little bit of additional leverage that could improve the deal from their perspective or even get something on the books sooner than expected. So perhaps there’s actual interest there or perhaps not. But so long as a “no comment” is perceived as a “yes,” in the headlines, the Bears benefit from the rumors.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami