When Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot came hard with her statement wishing the Bears would focus more on winning than moving, she made it a point to note the Bears are “locked” into their lease with Soldier Field until 2033.
And while it’s a fair point, it turns out that contact might not be as prohibitive as once thought.
Bill Ruthhart of the Chicago Tribune reports the Bears would have to pay the city $84 million if the team was to break its Soldier Field lease in 2026.
Or, let’s put it in a different way. The cost of breaking the lease is less than what Khalil Mack was given in total guarantees upon signing his Bears mega-deal.
The estimation comes after reviewing the team’s 120-page else with the city. It’s a document that apparently shows two important things. Firstly, it won’t be hard for the Bears to break their lease early. Secondly, the cost of leaving early would be relative peanuts when compared to the cost of building a new stadium. Simply put, if the team was already baking in costs for a new stadium, then $84 million to break the existing lease won’t be a daunting number. Especially not when it’s fair to estimate the cost of a new building being in the $2 billion range.
This report comes on the heels of a newsy stretch for the Bears and their future at Soldier Field. The team is bidding on the Arlington International Racecourse property, which is an important first step in taking its flirtation of leaving the city to the next level. Moreover, Arlington Heights is willing to welcome the Bears with open arms, already clearing the way for approval to use the site to build a football stadium. which has already been approved to build a football stadium. And in a fitting twist, the team’s newest business partner has ties to the property. All in all, the Bears are beyond being perfectly content to let those Arlington Heights rumors linger. We’re in full-on watch mode as the team positions itself to look elsewhere.
In the end, I can’t help but think about how $84 million doesn’t seem cost prohibitive. It probably felt like a price that would’ve kept the Bears from breaking their lease when it was written. However, that doesn’t feel like it’s the case any more. And if the franchise feels that way, then I’m unsure what the city can do to keep the team. To be clear, we’re still in the early stages of getting the ball rolling. But momentum is building and it is undeniable. Stay tuned.