Will stadium relocation help the Chicago Bears reach new heights?

Soldier FIeld
Soldier Field is an exposed environment for fans. Photo from The Stadium Guide.

The Chicago Bears have endured a forgettable campaign so far in 2021-22. This season has been one of the most competitive in recent years in terms of the parity between teams chasing postseason spots, but the Bears were realistically out of the playoff hunt weeks ago and any hopes of a miracle turnaround were well and truly extinguished by last week’s 17-9 defeat to the Vikings.

All in all, Bears fans have precious little to feel positive about at the moment – at least on the field. Off the field is a different story: The Bears announced in September that they had signed a $179.2 million purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse, sparking speculation that the franchise could be playing at a shiny new arena on the site in a few short years.

A new stadium would certainly be music to the ears of Bears fans who routinely sit through driving rain and freezing temperatures to watch their team at Soldier Field – a venue that offers scant protection from the Midwest winter. A top-performing team would warm the fans up somewhat, but that loss in Minnesota left the Bears with a double-digit loss mark for the season and they have clinched just the one division championship in the last dozen years.

A new stadium (maybe even one with a roof) might keep fans a little bit dryer and warmer, but would off-field improvements help to transform the Bears’ on-field fortunes? Plenty of NFL teams have moved to new, high-spec venues over recent years – have any of those stadium switches moved their respective teams closer to Superbowl success?

For the sake of this article, we won’t be counting the Rams’ and Chargers’ moves to SoFi Stadium (built on a former race track like the rumored Arlington Heights development will be) as these were relocations of franchises to different cities entirely rather than to new stadiums in the same city. For the same reason, the Raiders’ record since upping sticks to Vegas won’t be scrutinized. That leaves the Falcons, Vikings, and 49ers as the teams that have upgraded their home grounds during the last ten years.

The Mercedes Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons since opening in August 2017, is a truly impressive structure with a unique pinwheel retractable roof that looks like it came straight out of a sci-fi novel. Unfortunately, the Falcons’ performances since taking up residence in the 71,000 seat venue have been much less impressive, with just one wildcard postseason appearance notched (they lost the 2018 divisional playoff to eventual Superbowl champs the Eagles).

You’d be a brave person to bet on the Falcons to make the postseason this time round, too. The best online sportsbooks all have Arthur Smith’s men as huge outsiders for a wildcard spot given they will have to deliver a faultless final three games to have any chance of progressing. Looks like you need more than a fancy roof to win the NFC South.

The Vikings moved into their angly, transparent box (also known as the U.S. Bank Stadium) back in 2016. Unlike the Mercedes Benz Arena, this one’s got a fixed roof. It hosted Super Bowl LII in February 2017 but that’s as close as the Vikings have got to the NFL finale since the new stadium opened.


They’ve managed a couple of playoff appearances and one NFL North title (in 2017), but otherwise it’s been more of the same for the Vikings, who haven’t even reached the Super Bowl since 1976. Like the Falcons, the Vikings will need to produce an improbably good finish to the regular season to have any chance of securing a playoff wildcard.

Finally, the 49ers. Unlike the Falcons and the Vikings, the 49ers haven’t moved to a stadium with a fancy roof or transparent materials. Levi’s Stadium is a somewhat more traditional design, with its 68,500 seating capacity incorporating what is the largest lower bowl in the entire NFL.

The 49ers have at least managed to reach a Superbowl since moving to their new digs, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, but that’s pretty much it as far as successful seasons at Levi’s Stadium are concerned. Apart from that loss to the Chiefs in 2019, playoff appearances have completely dried up, something that’s all the more disappointing considering the 49ers made the postseason in each of their last three campaigns at Candlestick Park.

So, it looks like a new stadium isn’t an immediate ticket to Superbowl glory – at least judging by the efforts of the last three franchises to start afresh in their respective cities. However, the Cubs could do with a catalyst of any sort and they may just be the team that bucks the trend and gets a new home bounce to help them achieve some long-awaited success for their often-cold, often-wet and often-disappointed fans.

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