Silvy: Bears can’t afford to get stadium wrong again

Does building in Soldier Field’s south lot make real sense?

In this Oct. 28, 2018, file photo, fans wait before game between the Chicago Bears and New York Jets at Soldier Field in Chicago.

One represents new and fresh.

A possibility for something the Bears have never had with a Los Angeles flare.

The other continues down the same path the Bears have tried. Can they fix it, build around it, and finally make it work like so many have dreamed?

Because the YouTube videos are so damn beautiful.

No, this isn’t another Caleb Williams vs. Justin Fields column – though there will be more. This is about another major decision that will impact the Bears franchise even longer than the QB decision.

Arlington Heights vs. Chicago’s lakefront.

Like the Bears chasing the elusive quarterback, the Halas and McCaskey family have been smitten with building a home in Arlington Heights for decades. It appeared to finally come together after they purchased the Arlington racetrack site and demolished the facility last summer.

But like the Bears developing a QB, things just don’t go as planned.

First, a Cook county tax dispute.

Then, a change in leadership in Chicago with Brandon Johnson to help lure the Bears back to the city.

And a game plan team president Kevin Warren has run before.

When Warren was with the Vikings, they originally planned to move to a suburb north of Minneapolis. After disputes arose, the Vikes circled back downtown and built US Bank Stadium.

They got it right in Minnesota.

It’s a beautiful building.

I have no doubt wherever the Bears choose to build, the stadium itself will be fantastic. No more bathroom lines. No shortage of concessions choice. No more space ship-looking sports venues.

I also hope the sight lines are perfect from any seat and there are creature comforts a plenty.

While the game is the thing for the team, it isn’t the only thing for the fans. I hope the entire game-day experience is taken into account if they choose to stay on the lakefront.

I was excited about the possibilities of Arlington Heights. Not because I wanted the Bears to leave the city or because I’m pro suburbs, but because it gave the Bears the space to do whatever they wanted.

Warren loves the idea of that perfect blimp shot of the new stadium sparkling next to the crystal blue lake on an early fall day next to Chicago’s world class skyline. It is truly a postcard.

Problem is, postcards don’t improve game-day experiences. And Bears fans need a better game day to go along with the new stadium.

I look forward to getting face time with Warren and these are the questions I would liked answered if the Bears do in fact decide to build next to Soldier Field in the south lot.

  • How will traffic congestion be solved? The lake still remains to the east. The railroad tracks to the west. And a lot of times the city doesn’t allow fans to drive north on Lake Shore Drive after games. That leaves one direction to drive for thousands after games. Gridlock. Some fans experience commute times of two hours after games to drive as little as 15-20 miles.
  • Foot traffic after a game isn’t any easier. If you’ve ever walked to the CTA’s redline or anywhere in the loop, walking mere blocks is extended to well over a mile or two because of the way the city has pedestrians weave through mazes. Will this be fixed? We are not rats.
  • Football and tailgating go hand in hand. In order to tailgate at Soldier Field, fans must “win a lottery” to buy tailgate parking passes. There aren’t enough to go around. A new stadium in Arlington Heights would have parking a plenty. Not only do I worry about creating more spots at a new stadium, I worry if there would be LESS. If the stadium would be built on the south lot, that would eliminate the largest tailgate lot currently open. What is the solution? While the stadium would be indoors, there are still plenty of beautiful weather days to tailgate before and after each game. Expand for the fans.
  • If the Bears build on the south lot, and continue to play football at Soldier Field during construction, how would that feasibly work in an area already short on space? Please don’t send us back to Champaign.
  • Arlington Heights would’ve offered the chance to build a one stop shop for a Bears game-day experience. Bars. Restaurants. Shops. A team hall of fame. How does the footprint next to the lake provide the Bears the chance to do this?

When the Bears rebuilt Soldier Field the first time, they were so desperate to stay on the lakefront, they partnered with the city and built a building that was filled with flaws and needs to be torn down just 20 years later.

Don’t let history repeat itself.

Do. Not. Settle.

Like the quarterback position, the videos are cool, but have you answered the tough questions for long-term sustained success?

Make no little plans, Kevin.

• Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the “Waddle & Silvy” show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.

Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the Waddle & Silvy show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.