Chicago officials have put forward a number of proposals to keep the Bears on the lakefront, but if they were unable to reach a deal to keep the charter NFL franchise in town, would Mayor Lori Lightfoot consider another anchor tenant, such as another NFL team, at Soldier Field?
Lightfoot unveiled a series of proposals to make the stadium more attractive to the Bears in the long term, including an option that would install a dome structure over the existing playing surface.
That project could cost upwards of $2 billion, but when she was asked whether another tenant would potentially be the target of such a deal if the Bears move forward with a new stadium in Arlington Heights, she didn’t rule it out.
“Plenty of cities have…two NFL teams,” she said. “I can see that as an option for someone else, yes.”
A massive stumbling block to such a proposal would be an NFL rule that would require the Bears to sign off on another team moving into the market. Teams have veto power on allowing other clubs to move, or expand, into their designated market, and the Bears could either veto that possibility outright, or could try to convince any new team to share their stadium in Arlington Heights instead.
While there are many cities that have supported multiple NFL teams, and plenty of cities that still support multiple teams in other sports, such as the Cubs and White Sox in Major League Baseball, there are currently just two NFL markets that boast multiple teams.
The New York Giants and Jets have shared a stadium since 1984, when the Jets moved into East Rutherford’s Giants Stadium. In 2010, the two teams opened MetLife Stadium, which has since hosted a Super Bowl and numerous other high-profile events.
Los Angeles, which had supported multiple teams for years, was left without a team after the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved to Oakland, but they were able to lure the Rams back in 2016, with the team playing games at the Los Angeles Coliseum while SoFi Stadium was being built.
The Chargers also moved to the Los Angeles area in 2017, playing games at Dignity Health Sports Park, before joining the Rams at their new venue in 2020.
That stadium recently hosted the Super Bowl, which the Rams won in February.
As for Chicago, the city has supported multiple NFL franchises in the past, with the Arizona Cardinals calling the Windy City home from their inception in the 1920’s until 1960, when they moved to St. Louis.
The Soldier Field project could potentially take on three different levels of construction. The first and most intensive would see a dome added over the existing stadium, with new columns added to the end zones to support the structure.
Other options would include adding columns for a future dome, or to change the layout of the stadium to potentially serve as an attractive option for more international soccer matches, as well as improving existing facilities for Chicago Fire FC to remain an anchor tenant in the building.