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Bears announce bid to buy Arlington Racecourse. Will the Fire be the lone tenant at Soldier Field?

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If the Bears move to the ‘Burbs, could the Fire thrive as Soldier Field’s lone tenant?

Soldier Field, before a recent Chicago Fire match
Photo by Patrick McCraney

It’s been rumored for months, but the Chicago Bears dropped a bombshell this afternoon, officially announcing a bid to buy the Arlington International Racecourse property.

The statement from Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips says “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.”

From the Bears’ perspective, this makes sense. At 61,500 seats, Soldier Field is too small for a modern NFL stadium. And because it lacks a roof, Chicago can’t host major events like a Super Bowl or NCAA Final Four.

From a Fire perspective, it creates some big questions. Under Joe Mansueto, the long term plan has always seemed to be building a modern, soccer specific stadium in the city. But with the Bears potentially leaving, would the Fire now consider making Soldier Field their long term home?

On one hand, it’s hard to find a better location than the downtown lakefront. On the other hand, it’s probably too big, and lacks an overhang over the seats that’s included with nearly every modern soccer stadium. Then there’s the fact that the club wouldn’t own the stadium, and would have to deal with the Chicago Park District.

For the Fire, maybe the best case scenario would be the Bears leaving, and the Park District selling the property to Mansueto. After all, Mansueto already owns several of the most iconic buildings in the city. (It seems a Supreme Court ruling makes this scenario next to impossible, though.)

Whatever happens, this is all a long way off. A new Bears stadium will take years to complete, and the Fire may not even be interested in staying at Soldier Field long term. But, it’s fun to consider a world where the Fire have total control over one of the most iconic stadiums in the country.