Da Bears may soon be leaving their historic home in downtown Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is enduring a barrage a criticism this week for proposing $2.2 billion dollars in spending to upgrade Soldier Field.
“Mayor should put a lid on billion-dollar Soldier Field dome plans,” opined the Chicago Sun Times editorial board on July 26, 2022. “With so many far more pressing issues around town and in the parks that are in need of public funding, taxpayers shouldn’t be made responsible for a billion-dollar stadium renovation.”
Longtime home of the iconic Chicago Bears football team, Soldier Field has endured in downtown Chicago for five decades.
But the Bears franchise, “who have a deal in place to explore a site in the suburb of Arlington Heights,” according to Yahoo Sports, “appear disinterested in the proposal.”
“The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park,” said the organization in a statement. “As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of the property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract.”
“We have informed the city of Chicago that we intend to honor our contractural commitments as we continue our due diligence and predevelopment activities on the Arlington Heights property,” the statement concluded.
“An improved Soldier Field will deliver a world-class visitor experience,” Mayor Lightfoot said after unveiling the plans. “Furthermore, any of these proposed renovations will allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come, as these changes will allow us to keep bringing sports, music, and other exciting events to our city.”
“Soldier Field remains a critical driver of Chicago’s economy,” Lightfoot tweeted on July 26, 2022. “That’s why I’m excited that our proposal for a revitalized top-tier stadium that will attract tourists, fans, and events to our world-class city.”
Lightfoot’s reasons for proposing the renovations and upgrade are fairly simple: Something must be done to avert disaster in Chicago as more and more businesses and residents flee the metro area.
As chief city manager, if Lightfoot doesn’t act to retain and attract businesses to Chicago, who will?
Contrast Lightfoot’s economic olive branch with the reaction of some local lawmakers in California at Elon Musk’s threats to relocate Tesla from California to Texas.
Musk actually referenced the above Tweet as the impetus for his final decision to ultimately make good on his threats to take Tesla and leave the state.
By elevating what was basically a labor dispute into a personal Twitter war of words, city and state lawmakers and leaders ignored the realities of what losing so many employers would mean for local economies.
All things being equal, it makes no sense to dismiss Elon Musk, the Chicago Bears, Citadel, Boeing, Walgreens, Starbucks or any other company making business decisions based on new social realities.
Whether these changes are permanent and intractable remains to be seen.
One of those realities, as inconvenient as it is at this time, is unfortunately sharply rising crime in many large cities and metro areas across the United States- Chicago being no exception.
“As violent crime in Chicago soared, arrests fell to historic lows,” reported the Chicago Sun Times on July 15, 2022. “Chicago police have made arrest in fewer and fewer crimes in recent years.”
The problem doesn’t look likely to resolve itself any time soon. In fact, the situation in Chicago might soon be getting much worse.
The Safe-T Act, passed by both houses and signed into law by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, should it go into effect, eliminates cash bail for criminal suspects charged with crimes from theft to murder.
“Crime and chaos downtown and beyond are keeping tourists away from Chicago, and experts say something has to change,” wrote Tara Molina for CBS Chicago on May 18, 2022. “Such events as the chaos downtown that led to a deadly shooting right in the middle of Millennium Park have led people to cancel trips, meetings, and events in Chicago because they don’t feel safe.”
While there is good news for Chicago- “Google Is Buying the Thompson Center for $105 Million,” announced Chicago Book Club on July 27- it is going to take more than a renovated Soldier Field to turn things around in Chicago.
But that might be a good place to start.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)