As the Chicago Bears have marched inexorably downfield toward a prospective new suburban home, so has Mayor Lori Lightfoot taken steps to imagine a future at Soldier Field without them while trying to make the case they should stay put.
The divorce is far from a foregone conclusion, even after team officials announced Wednesday the long-awaited purchase of land in Arlington Heights where they could build a stadium and futuristic entertainment and housing combo complex. The Bears have simply taken the next step, one they’ve been telegraphing for over a year.
But as the Lightfoot administration and the team get down to the brass tacks of figuring out whether the Bears will leave, it’s worth revisiting what the area in and around the historic lakefront stadium could look like if it is stripped of its longtime, highest-profile tenant.
Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry served on a 2022 panel Lightfoot created to figure out what a modernized Museum Campus could look like with or without the Bears.
If the team leaves Soldier Field, Irizarry said she hopes the stadium can host many more concerts each year, easing the increasingly controversial burden on neighborhood parks for big musical events such as Riot Fest in Douglass Park and the recently announced Re:SET festival in Riis Park.