The Chicago Bears’ trek to the suburbs is inevitable.
There has been a whole lot of chatter regarding the team’s move to Arlington Heights. We’ve seen renderings, went to a meeting, discussed the lack of a dome, and been tracking the project all the way through. But there is new reporting on the Arlington Park project from NBC-5. And it brings a new dimension to the happenings surrounding the Bears’ pending move to the ‘burbs.
Bears Move to Arlington Heights
Reporting from Alex Maragos, Nathan Halder, and Shelby Bremer provides new details for us to peruse. NBC’s investigative team acquired messages between Arlington Heights officials and Bears employees through a Freedom of Information Act request. That’s quality, old-school, Big J, Journalism. And I have so much respect for it. Give it a full read when you can. Meanwhile, we’ll highlight some details:
- It was Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes who initiated first contact to spur the move. Mayor Hayes began extending the olive branch with a letter to Bears Chairman George McCaskey on March 4, 2021. The letter inquired about the team’s interest in the property. Hayes was hoping the two could discuss how they could “work together to build something special” that was “worthy of the track’s legacy.” Arlington Park officially closed in September 2021. The Bears entered a purchase agreement later that month.
- This detail regarding the relationship between the Bears and Arlington Heights’ mayor in the NBC reporting goes a long way toward explaining how Chicago fumbled the bag:
“Since that day, their communications paint a picture of partnership – completely coordinated messaging and, as Bears President Ted Phillips put it, shared excitement about “bringing our vision to life.”
Now, compare that to the Bears’ public relationship with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:
- One of the spicier things the NBC team shared in its report is a nugget from Bears President/CEO Ted Phillips, who alleges in the emails obtained by the investigative squad that city of Chicago officials leaked the news of the Bears’ move. Salacious! In the emails, Phillips told the Arlington Heights Mayor that they were anticipating (expecting?) that possibility. I find that … interesting.
The Bears were anticipating the possibility of a city leak so much that thy still got beat to the punch? Huh. Really? Something feels off about this, but I can’t fully grasp it. I find it odd because the only communique regarding a move was apparently in messages between Arlington Heights officials and folks using a Bears email address. After all, approaching a city official about a possible move could’ve been grounds for breaking a lease that can’t be broken without a sizable payout before 2026. But playing a he-said, she-said game over who leaked what when feels like a waste of time.
In the end, I don’t think anything found in the emails is wholly earth-shattering. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting. Ultimately, I don’t think anything will come of it that will prevent the move to Arlington Park. But this look behind the curtain of how the sausage was made adds another layer of intrigue. I doubt this is the last we’ll hear of new details surrounding the inner workings of this deal.