How the Chicago mayoral election could impact Soldier Field

USA Today

While many pressing issues are at the forefront of voters' minds with just four days left until the 2023 Chicago mayoral election, the future of one of the city's most treasured landmarks may be impacted by who voters choose to lead the city.

With the Bears recently closing on a purchase of property at Arlington Park in an effort to create an enclosed stadium and entertainment complex in suburban Arlington Heights, the Bears' future in their namesake city could be numbered.

The Bears acknowledged the purchase in a statement to fans, adding that the move represents "an important next step" while reiterating that it does not guarantee a new stadium at the property.

Incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot has repeatedly expressed her desire to keep the Bears in Chicago, proposing the addition of a dome to Soldier Field while working to enhance the development in the surrounding area.

Costs for adding a dome to Soldier Field could cost upwards of $2.2 billion. Lightfoot did not say whether the city would seek subsidies for such a plan, but said that the team's purchase of the Arlington Park property gives the city a fresh chance at negotiating.


Whether in Arlington Heights or Chicago, an enclosed stadium has emerged as a priority for all parties involved, with Lightfoot touting a domed Soldier Field as a potential year-round concert venue.

As for the Bears themselves, QB1 Justin Fields is firmly in support of not having to worry about the cold while playing at home.

"I don't care if we're at Soldier Field, I don't care if we're at Arlington Heights. I hope we get a dome," Fields said during a recent appearance on a Barstool Sports podcast.

As for other candidates, the drive to keep the Bears at Museum Campus is much more lukewarm, highlighted by comments made during a televised debate last month.

While any potential move to the northwest suburb is still years away, the candidates were asked whether they would seek to keep the team playing at Soldier Field, and they provided a variety of answers.

Chicago Ald. Sophia King called on the state of Illinois to provide funds to help convince the team to stay in Chicago, but State Rep. Kam Buckner said that he would oppose those funds going to the team.

Activist Ja’Mal Green and Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson both said they’d be willing to negotiate, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot pointed to a recent proposal to completely revamp Soldier Field, including the installation of a dome over the stadium.

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said he’d be willing to explore other sites in the city to allow the Bears to build their own stadium.

Dr. Willie Wilson said that the city should instead seek to lure another NFL team to Chicago, while former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas said that it was too late to convince the Bears to stay, and that the opportunity to negotiate had passed.

Finally, Ald. Roderick Sawyer questioned whether the stadium could be expanded enough to meet the Bears’ needs.

Here are the full quotes from each candidate, asked in the order in which they’ll appear on next week's ballot –

Ja’Mal Green:

My family are Bears fans, and they called me up and said ‘keep the Bears here,’ but of course they’ve already signed a deal. We would bring them to the table, but our priority would be city finances.

Sophia King:

We definitely need to keep the Bears here, and they haven’t signed that deal just yet. We need to keep them here. Either way, whether the Bears are in Arlington or Chicago, they need state funds. It is more economically viable for them to be here so they can make money.

Kam Buckner:

There will not be state funds going to Soldier Field to keep the Bears in Chicago, I’ll tell you that right now. I fought in Springfield to keep the people of Chicago from that happening. I would love to see the Bears here, and I would love to come to the table with them.


Dr. Willie Wilson:

Simple: bring another team here.

Brandon Johnson:

We have to listen and be prepared to negotiate. I said earlier I came from a family of 10, and I certainly know how to negotiate when you’re in the house with one bathroom.

Paul Vallas:

I think the Arlington deal is too profitable, and I think we blew an opportunity to negotiate with them and we didn’t. You can’t insult them and then bring them back to the negotiating table.

Lori Lightfoot:

We’re not done yet. We’re not going to let the Bears go. We’re going to fight, fight, fight to keep them in Soldier Field. We’ve got a plan that we presented, and we think they’re interested, and we’re going to keep talking.

Roderick Sawyer:

I’m a fan, but unless you can put 25,000 to 30,000 additional fans in those stands, I don’t think you can make it work.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia:

It’s time for the Hail Mary pass. Bears, if you’re listening, let’s talk, and let’s talk about other locations in Chicago as well.

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