The Crusader Newspaper Group

Keep the Chicago Bears

Photo caption: Chicago Bears Stadium Rendering at Arlington Park (Courtesy WTTW)

By Delmarie Cobb

The Arlington Heights Bears. The Naperville Bears. The Waukegan Bears. Oh my, what city will be the next one to try to lure the Chicago Bears to come make it their home?

Call me crazy, but I find it hard to believe that no one in Chicago government is offering the Bears what they want—to own a domed stadium and build an entertainment district. The pros for Soldier Field are its lakefront location and easy access. The cons are the Bears don’t own it and it’s the smallest stadium in the National Football League with no options to grow.

A new Chicago Bears stadium gives the owners an opportunity to start a Sportsbook, host a Super Bowl, build a hotel, provide retail space for bars, restaurants and stores. In other words, create a Bears village.

To do so the McCaskey family wants space. Something Kevin Warren, the new president and CEO said is unique about the Arlington International Racecourse site, “You don’t get many times to have over 300 acres close to the city,” explained Warren. Consequently, the 326 acres could transform into a “wonderful 365-day-a-year entertainment district,” according to Ted Phillips, the former president and CEO.

The Bears say it’s the right thing to do.

“It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois,” said Scott Hagel, the team’s senior vice president of marketing and communications.

So, if it’s space the Bears want? If it’s to create a transformational opportunity for the fans? If it’s to do right by the State of Illinois, then why isn’t the vacant U.S. Steel SouthWorks site under consideration?

The South Side location is approximately 10 miles from the Chicago Loop. The lakefront property is easily accessible from DuSable Lake Shore Drive. It’s described as “one of the largest contiguous infill- and waterfront-parcels for sale in the United States,” yet the 600 acres of land has been sitting empty for decades. Last, it would provide the transformational opportunity the Bears want and Chicago’s South Side needs.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine if this land was 10 miles north of the Chicago Loop. The SouthWorks site gives Warren, the McCaskey Family, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Governor J.B. Pritzker an opportunity to put together a deal that would be a win-win for everyone.

It would give the Bears everything they claim to want. It would give Mayor Johnson and Gov. Pritzker a way to keep the Bears in Chicago. It would transform the far South Side. It would create thousands of 365-day-a-year jobs at all skill levels. It would invest in people. It would address the high level of unemployment and lack of opportunity in a disinvested part of the city. It would be a deterrent to crime. It would provide a needed tax base. It would generate multiple revenue streams. Last, it would show a part of the city that’s been forgotten that we see you, we value you and we’re going to partner with you to improve your quality of life for generations.

I don’t know if Mr. Warren visited the SouthWorks site while he was touring Chicagoland looking at suitable locations for the new Bears stadium, but I want to invite him to expand his search to include the South Side of Chicago. If the self-described “stadium nerd” wants to make an impact with ramifications that extend beyond making the McCaskey Family rich, then the SouthWorks site is the site that works.

Chicago claims to be the city that works. Now is the time to prove it by scoring a win that football fans and non-football fans can celebrate.

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