Alderperson May Try Desperate Move to Keep Bears in Chicago: Report

Ryan Pace

Getty CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 14: General manager Ryan Pace of the Chicago Bears walks the sidelines before a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field on August 14, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Dolphins 20-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The latest in the city of Chicago’s bid to keep the Bears in town is a doozy.

According to a November 16 report by Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times, Alderman George A. Cardenas (12th ward), who also serves as deputy City Council floor leader to Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, is prepared to take drastic measures in an attempt to keep the team in the city.

“The city just acquired a casino. We need these assets to stay in the city. And we have to come up with a way to entice the Bears. If they don’t want to be here, let’s buy them out. I mean — they can’t manage this team. They haven’t managed this team [well] in decades,” Cardenas told the Sun-Times.

You read that correctly. The city of Chicago is considering a way to buy the Bears and then sell shares of the team to fans.

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Is This Even Feasible?

Not really, but Cardenas sounds a tad desperate to keep the team in Chicago. The Bears, of course, have purchased the sprawling Arlington Park property located in Arlington Heights, and all signs point to the team leaving the Windy City to build a new stadium there.

The major roadblock for the city of Chicago is that under current NFL rules, no team apart from the Green Bay Packers can become publicly owned or be a non-profit entity. The Packers were grandfathered in, and league rules state that a single controlling person or family has at least 30% stake in each team — and that’s going to be very difficult for Cardenas and company to sidestep. According to the Sun-Times, Cardenas may still try:

Cardenas’ resolution calls on the City Council’s Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation to ‘convene a hearing’ to authorize a ‘feasibility study on whether it is practical and advisable for the city to pursue the purchase of the Chicago Bears.’ The resolution notes that there ‘may be financial or legal barriers to the city acquiring an ownership stake in an NFL franchise — including NFL bylaws regarding ownership and potential issues regarding the city having a stake in a for-profit enterprise or in a gaming position.’ But, it states, The City Council feels the city should explore every opportunity to keep the Bears in Chicago, even if that means buying the team.’

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Could Bears Be Enticed By New Stadium in Chicago?

The Sun-Times also spoke to Chicago-area sports marketing expert Marc Ganis, who pointed out the numerous flaws in the city’s plan to potentially buy the Bears. Ganis thinks the best bet is to try to build a new stadium within the city. Per the Sun-Times:

“Even if the McCaskeys ultimately decided to sell the family business, they might have to get the go-ahead from businessman Andrew McKenna Sr. and insurance magnate Patrick Ryan, who have a 19.6% ownership stake in the Bears, Ganis said. They might also have an option to buy the team. ‘If city officials wanted to put their efforts into stopping a move to Arlington Heights, they should be thinking about how to build a new stadium for them within the city limits,'” Ganis added.

Would the team owners, the McCaskey family, go for this idea? It’s highly unlikely, based solely on their actions so far. The McCaskeys seem intent on building a state-of-the-art stadium in Arlington Park, and while they have been mum about the transaction, others have shared telling details about the team’s plans.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen (Churchill Downs owns the Arlington Park property) said in late October that the Bears had plans to build a “world-class stadium” in Arlington Heights, and the odds are extremely low the team can be talked out of leaving Soldier Field and the city of Chicago at this point.

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