Chicago Bears considering a move to the suburbs

Is the team considering a move to the suburbs after a century in Chicago or bluffing to get a better deal out of the city?
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Unlike the New Jersey Giants and Jets, the Landover Football Team, the Arlington Cowboys and the Santa Clara 49ers, the Chicago Bears have always been the Chicago Bears. 

Founded in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys, the club moved to Chicago the following year, became the Bears the year after that, and have remained such ever since. They played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970 and have been at Solider Field ever since (save for a year at Memorial Stadium in Champaign while Soldier Field was being renovated.)

Soldier Field is the oldest stadium still in use in the NFL, but it may not hold that distinction all that much longer.

On Thursday, Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips released a statement saying the club is examining its options moving forward.

"We recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property. It's our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we're doing what's best for our organization and its future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential."

The Arlington site is located in the northwestern suburb of Arlington Heights. A move there would be akin to the 49ers leaving Candlestick Park for Santa Clara.

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It's far too soon to say the club is definitely moving to the suburbs, but a move is at least on the table.

"It's still on the table, to my understanding, but it's a complete, definite 'maybe,'" Arlington Heights mayor Tom Hayes told the Daily Herald. "I'm not in a position where I could say it's a definite 'go' or definite 'no go.'"

It's equally possible the Bears are playing poker with the city of Chicago. Their lease with the city-owned Solider Field runs through 2033, so it's possible the team is flirting with Arlington Heights in order to get a better deal at home. (Though the stadium itself dates back to 1924, the interior was largely rebuilt during the 2002-03 renovations.) 

“It’s a great, iconic site,” Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot told the local Fox affiliate. “But it’s a challenging site, and I think it’s incumbent on us as a city to step up and look at ways in which we can make sure that the Bears fans, but also the Bears as an organization, have the best opportunities to maximize the fan experience and, of course, maximize revenues.”

If the club does become the Arlington Heights Bears, one would have to assume their new stadium would be larger and warmer than their current home in order to get on the Super Bowl/Final Four rotation. In addition to being the NFL's oldest stadium, Solider Field's 61,500-seat capacity is also the league's smallest.