It looks increasingly likely that the NFL's Chicago Bears will leave Soldier Field for a new stadium in Arlington Park, but that hasn't stopped the city and Mayor Lori Lightfoot from unveiling plans for a massive renovation to the 98-year-old facility and the 57-acre Museum Campus it sits on (home to the Shed Aquarium and Field Museum).
The first two proposals — which could cost up to $2.2 billion — are direct efforts to keep the Bears in Chicago. The first calls for a full enclosure of the stadium by rebuilding both end zones with columns that will support a dome structure. This would also increase capacity from 61,500 to 70,000, add more suites, clubs, premium areas and quadruple concession spaces, among a number of other improvements.
The second option is rebuilding the end zones so that the stadium is dome ready (without actually taking that step). Option three is certainly of most interest to MLS fans.
A Bears departure would leave the Chicago Fire as the stadium's only tenets, and the Fire haven't exactly been a massive draw since returning to Soldier Field from SeatGeek Stadium in 2020.
This year, the Fire has the league's 24th best attendance of 28 clubs with an average gate of 15,356. The club has only made the playoffs once in the past nine years, and despite recently making Xherdan Shaqiri the league's highest-paid player on $8.2 million, Chicago's still currently beneath the playoff line with a record of 7W-10L-5D.
But option three is what'll happen if the Bears leave, and the proposal calls for a modification of Soldier Field to a multi-purpose stadium that's better suited for soccer while also more accommodating for major concerts and other events.
This option is probably less on the $2.2 billion side of things and closer to the $900 million price point.
The Fire's lease to Soldier Field could conceivably run for a very long time, although it's a lot more flexible than the previous agreement they had with the Village of Bridgeview.