It has long been known that the Chicago Bears are looking to move out of the aging Soldier Field and into a brand new, state of the art stadium. While it was initially believed that the suburb of Arlington Heights was going to be their new home after the purchase of the former Arlington Park Racecourse, new Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren recently stated that the site is no longer their main focus for a new stadium due to property tax issues.
After this news broke, Chicago and three new cities are now in the fray for the bidding to win the new Bears stadium. The three new cities are Aurora, Naperville, and Waukegan- the last of which stands out to me for a few reasons.
Recently, I took a vacation that spanned six different states, and Illinois was one of them. In fact, I made a visit to Waukegan and the city adjacent to it, Gurnee. Today, based on firsthand experience, I will tell you why the Bears need to relocate to Waukegan, Illinois, the northernmost Chicago suburb and the last major city in the state before the Wisconsin border.
Waukegan mayor Ann B. Taylor, in her pitch to the Bears, stated that the city could offer them multiple lakefront parcels that would allow them to continue playing on Lake Michigan, as they currently do at Soldier Field. Some of these properties are actually within 20 minutes of the Bears’ headquarters and practice facilities, PNC Center at Halas Hall, which are located in nearby Lake Forest.
Past and Present Bears History in Lake County
Taylor also stated that Lake County, which is where Waukegan is located, is a place where many members of the Bears organization, spanning from players to executives, have taken up their residency, which is understandable considering that the area is considered one of the safest places to live in Chicagoland. Notable past and present Bears players, including Robert Quinn, Jack Sanborn, and Brian Urlacher, have lived in Lake County during their time with the team.
The team also has a past history in the county. During the early 1990s, the team’s winter training facilities were in Waukegan, and their previous headquarters was at Lake Forest College, also within Lake County limits.
Nearby Tourist Attractions
Gurnee, one of the cities I mentioned earlier as part of my travels, is seen as the tourist destination of northern Chicagoland, as the city is home to the area’s only Six Flags amusement park, as well as the third-largest mall in the Chicago area, Gurnee Mills.
The Bears’ eventual desire in their quest for a new home is to build a domed stadium and an additional entertainment district that would be capable of hosting events such as the Super Bowl. If Waukegan were to land the stadium and it is selected to host the marquee event, both the city and the nearby attractions in Gurnee would see a significant amount of visitors during Super Bowl week, which would create a lot of revenue for both the cities of Waukegan and Gurnee, the Six Flags park, and the owners of Gurnee Mills, Simon Property Group.
Also of note- if a potential Waukegan plan is approved but the Bears cannot get the entertainment district, that could be offset by the presence of Six Flags and Gurnee Mills.
Southeastern Wisconsin Fanbase
Wisconsin is undoubtedly Packers country, but the Bears actually have a pretty good size fanbase in southeastern Wisconsin. A majority of these fans reside in Kenosha and Racine, the first two major cities after you pass the Illinois-Wisconsin border en route from Chicago to Milwaukee.
Kenosha, which is 30 minutes north of Waukegan, is a major battleground city for Packers and Bears fans, which is largely because people from the Chicago area have moved to the city in order to find cheaper homes and more affordable work. In addition, Wisconsin’s state taxes are significantly lower than the taxes in Illinois.
Having been to the city several times, I can say that Kenosha is 50-50 Bears and Packers fans. My father’s family actually originates from Kenosha, and although they are Packers fans, they have a good amount of friends that root for the Bears.
A Bears stadium in Waukegan would allow for those southeastern Wisconsin Bears fans to see their team at a cheaper price in a more convenient city. A lot of people in the Kenosha/Racine area do not like to make the drive to Chicago due to how crowded the city is, as well as the tolls on Interstate 94 en route to and from the city. Should Waukegan land the new stadium, alternate roads such as Highway 31/131 (Green Bay Road) and Highway 32/137 (Sheridan Road) would provide more accessible routes to see a Bears game.
In conclusion, these are the reasons why I believe that the Bears should move to the city of Waukegan. Based on this article, it is easy to argue why this may be the best all-around location for a new Bears stadium. What do you guys think? Where should the Bears move to? Comment your thoughts below and keep it here at NFCNorthReport.