The renewed chatter regarding a possible new home for the Bears in Arlington Heights makes sense. Soldier Field is outdated. The team at some point could be up for sale, especially if estate-tax obligations compel the transfer of equity to outsiders. The possibility of a new, state-of-the-art venue potentially becomes critical to maximizing franchise value.
Here’s what maximizes the value of a new stadium: More games. So could Chicago become the third American city to host a pair of football teams in one stadium?
It’s not as crazy as it may sound at first blush. Stadium politics will compel some owners who can’t get free money to build or renovate stadiums in their existing cities to consider other alternatives. If Bears build their own stadium (like Rams owner Stan Kroenke has done), adding another team to the mix and the extra 10 home games per year that go along with it, a team in a market that can’t or won’t pay for all or most of a new or renovated stadium could be inclined to make the move.
Then there’s the issue of expansion. Although the league hasn’t begun to float that possibility, it’s looming. Legalized gambling cries out for increased inventory of things on which to bet. The 17-game season inevitably will become an 18-game season. Then, the only way to increase the number of games will be to increase the number of teams.
So where would a new team land? St. Louis? The pending Rams relocation litigation against the league possibly burns that bridge. San Diego? Good luck getting taxpayer money for a stadium there. San Antonio? The Texans and Cowboys would likely never tolerate another team wedged between their markets.
Other than London — which quite possibly will end up with two teams in its two NFL-ready stadiums — Chicago may be the only viable spot for a team. Especially if the relocation/expansion of a team to Chicago makes it more financially viable for the Bears to buy and build a replacement for Soldier Field.