Proposed northwest Indiana bill takes first step in push for potential Bears stadium relocation

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Proposed NW Indiana bill could lead to push for Bears relocation
A Northwest Indiana sports commission bill proposed by Rep. Earl Harris Jr. could lead to area pushing for a Chicago Bears stadium relocation.

EAST CHICAGO, Ill. (WLS) -- A newly proposed bill could pave the way for northwest Indiana to become latest location in the running for a potential Chicago Bears stadium move.

Northwest Indiana has miles of lakefront property, numerous casinos and thousands of Bears fans who live a short distance away from where the team currently plays at Soldier Field. Indiana State Representative Earl Harris Jr. has introduced a bill to create a northwest Indiana sports commission with the hopes of bring a team like the Bears even closer.

"When you look at the economics, everything costs less in Indiana, so why not move over?" Harris said.

He realizes it's a long shot, but the Bears actually have flirted with the idea.

In the mid-90's, then Bears Chairman Michael McCaskey talked about building a new stadium and entertainment complex in Gary, Indiana, called Planet Park. The team stayed in Chicago, and the city eventually rebuilt Soldier Field.

Professional sports business consultant Marc Ganis believes history will repeat itself.

"It didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now," Ganis said. "There are options the Bears have in hand, such as Arlington Heights."

RELATED | Chicago Bears may build new stadium next to Soldier Field; Arlington Heights move still considered

Ganis said the 326-acre site in the northwest suburbs, the home of the former Arlington Park race track, makes the most sense. However, he believes the team is also seriously considering staying somewhere in Chicago.

Bears President Kevin Warren last week said all options are still on the table.

"That stadium is a 40-year decision," Warren said. "We need to make sure we get that right and we're very deliberate in the thought process."

Northwest Indiana is home to a couple of minor league professional sports franchises. Representative Harris believes the Bears would fit in nicely.

"Ask not, want not," Harris said. "That's just reality. If you don't ask, take your shot, you don't get anything accomplished."

Representative Harris has not yet talked to the Bears about moving to Indiana. He said he's hoping to meet with them soon.

The bill to create a sports commission has been introduced already and is now moving to committee discussion.