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Skeptical City Council Blocks Move To Explore How The City Could Buy Chicago Bears

Ald. George Cardenas said his resolution was a conversation starter on how to keep the franchise in the city, but Ald. Ray Lopez said it wasn't a conversation worth having.

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CHICAGO — A veteran City Council member threw a Hail Mary to keep the Chicago Bears in the city by exploring a public takeover of the $4 billion franchise, but his plan landed like a double-doink field goal with his colleagues Wednesday. 

With the Bears primed to move to suburban Arlington Heights amid protracted negotiations with the city over its lease of Soldier Field, Ald. George Cardenas (12th) introduced a resolution to hold a hearing to explore how the city could buy the team. The Bears signed an agreement to buy the Arlington Park racetrack in September.

Cardenas’s resolution was introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting but intercepted by Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), who then spiked the measure to the dreaded Rules Committee, where unwanted legislation is known to die by attrition.

The Sun Times first reported on the ordinance Tuesday. 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. George A. Cardenas (12th) looks on at a City Council meeting where alderpeople voted on the 2022 budget, on Oct. 27, 2021.

Cardenas, who is campaigning for a position on the Cook County Board of Review, defended the proposal before Wednesday’s meeting, saying the Bears needed “to do the right thing” for the team’s fans. 

“It is not completely out of possibility,” he said. “There are different ideas, crowd sourcing, of having people buy into it. When people want something bad enough, you’re going to find a way to do it, so don’t tell me it can’t be done. There’s ways to do it, but I will tell you what can’t happen is to have a stadium and no team for this city of sports fans.”

Ultimately, Cardenas said his measure would start a conversation.

Lopez said it wasn’t a “serious conversation” worth having.

“Clearly the city of Chicago does not have a spare $4 billion lying around, it really takes away from the conversation that should be having, which is what do we need to do, if anything, to keep the Bears here,” he said. “We have more important topics to be focusing on like the safety and security of our neighborhoods, than a pie in the sky dream of buying the Bears.”

Forbes ranked the Bears as the seventh most valuable NFL franchise, at more than $4 billion.

Before Lopez’ parliamentary sack, other aldermen, including the chairs of the Budget and Finance Committees, either expressed doubt about the seriousness of Cardenas’ proposal or outright scoffed at the idea.

“How are we going to pay for it?” Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) asked.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), the chair of the Budget Committee, agreed. She was surprised by the idea, saying the city should be focused on more “pressing matters.”

“We should be focused on homelessness and gun violence, not on recreational folly,” she said.

Finance Committee chair, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), said he wouldn’t endorse buying the Bears and wants the financial focus to be on keeping the Bears in the city.

“I think there has to be conversations with the Bears on what they’re doing in a more public fashion,” he said. “We’ve basically supported them all of these years with Soldier Field and they’ve gotten a pretty darn good deal out of it, and to just pull up and talk about moving without a public conversation misses the point.”

After the meeting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “discussions continue” with the Chicago Bears about keeping the team in the city and deemed Cardenas’s proposal “interesting.”

“I didn’t say that I would support the city buying the Bears, but I think it’s an interesting exercise for a feasibility study,” she said. “But the bottom line is, we’ve go to do things that are in the economic best sense of the city of Chicago and our taxpayers, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

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