Mayor Brandon Johnson meets with Bears about staying at Soldier Field

Sarah Schulte Image
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Mayor Johnson meets with Bears about staying in Chicago
Mayor Brandon Johnson met with the Chicago Bears Wednesday in hopes of keeping them in Chicago and even at Soldier Field.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson met with the Chicago Bears Wednesday in hopes of keeping them at Soldier Field.

At an unrelated event, Johnson did not offer specifics about a plan to keep the Bears in the city, but his first conversation with team management took place.

"We want to make sure we keep shuffling here in the city of Chicago with the Bears," he said. "I want to make sure the ownership of the Chicago Bears, the Park District and the residents of the city of Chicago have a real seat at the table to discuss a pathway forward."

The pathway to Arlington Heights, on the former racetrack land, was considered a touchdown until the Bears were hit with a huge property tax bill before the stadium is even built.

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The team is also floating interest from Naperville. At a Tuesday night city council meeting, Mayor Scott Wherli said he and the Bears have had conversations.

"These conversation are just that conversations no development proposal was submitted to the city, no incentives were discussed or provided by either party," he said.

And staying in Chicago is a possibility as well.

"I think the Bears would now consider it, whereas before it was dead because the prior relationship with the then-mayor was so bad," said Marc Ganis of Sportscorp Ltd.

Ganis, a sports consultant, said a new Chicago mayor combined with a new Bears president opens the doors to discussions about a new Chicago stadium. But, Ganis said, Johnson must start the conversations slowly.

"I think the mayor listening in a first meeting is exactly the right thing to do set a tone, let it be a positive relationship," ganis said.

Whether it's in the city or suburbs, the Bears have the benefit of time. Their lease with Soldier Field is up in 10 years, though the team can terminate it at the end of any year.

The Bears and Mayor Johnson released a joint statement, saying, "Today, we met and discussed our shared values and commitment to the City of Chicago, the importance of deep roots, and the need for equitable community investment throughout the City. We are both committed to the idea that the City and its major civic institutions must grow and evolve together to meet the needs of the future. We look forward to continuing the dialogue around these shared values."