The Chicago Bears and the McCaskey family are moving forward with plans to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights. But the Bears’ contract with the Chicago Park District to play at Soldier Field running through 2033, how soon can they break their lease and how much will it cost?
Per the Chicago Tribune, the Bears can break their Soldier Field lease as early as 2026 for a reported fee of $84 million. The fee accounts to 150% of the remaining lease for “improper relocation.” It is small change compared to the $197.2 million the Bears paid for Arlington International Racecourse, the site of the potential new stadium.
But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a “Plan B” if the Bears decide to leave Soldier Field for Arlington Heights.
“We’re going to continue our discussions with the league,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got Plan B, Plan C and others in the works as well if the Bears decide they’re going to abandon the city of Chicago.”
While Lightfoot did not reveal what “Plan B” was, she has touted the idea of a second NFL team in Chicago.
Soldier Field is also home to the Chicago Fire, but their contract is much more opt-out friendly for the team. The Fire have also been unhappy tenants, in April the Fire and the Chicago Park District were in a dispute over sponsorship rights at Soldier Field.
The Chicago Bears are inhaling a lot of renovation options for Soldier Field from the city of Chicago, however, it's unlikely the team will stay consider them. The team won a bid they put on Arlington Park back in the fall with the full intention of leaving Soldier Field and building a new stadium on the land they plan to close on in early 2023.
Can the Bears break their contract with the Chicago Park District?
The short answer -- yes. The Bears and the Chicago Park District have a lease that runs through 2033. But, they can break that lease as soon as 2026 at the cost of $84 million. This is a small cost to building a new stadium. Without knowing how much the organization plans to spend on the new stadium, it will likely be multiple billion dollars.
The Raiders' stadium in Las Vegas (Allegiant Stadium) cost them around $2 billion and the league's newest stadium, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, cost the Rams franchise $5 billion. The cost to break the lease would go into the factor of building a new stadium, but it's a cost that the Bears will likely pay to move out to the suburbs.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during the unveiling of the city's possible renovations to Soldier Field that the Bears would be "foolish" not to consider the plan she has for the stadium.