clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mayor: It’s likely Soldier Field will remain empty this season

Just last week, Bears chairman George McCaskey said the Bears presented a “good plan” to the city and were told the number of active cases needed to shrink before fans could return.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot doubts fans will be back at Soldier Field anytime soon.
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot doubts fans will be back at Soldier Field anytime soon.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Saying the odds of Bears fans returning to Soldier Field this season are at less than 50%, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused the team of not communicating with her office.

In an interview with “Mully and Haugh” on WSCR-AM on Friday morning, Lightfoot said that “we’re no nowhere near at a place where we can even realistically talk about fans coming back to Soldier Field.” She said her office is “willing to absolutely work with the Bears — but they’ve got to talk with us and be willing to cooperate and not just say things in the media.”

At an unrelated news conference later -Friday, Lightfoot talked specifically about what she wanted from the Bears.

“Work with our [public health] experts,” Lightfoot said. “Come to us with specific, concrete plans. . . . Hundreds of people have to be there, just to support the game itself. Then, when you layer into it . . . the people in the stands, that is a complicated exercise.

“It is a massive exercise to put one of these events on. That’s why you can’t just talk about it in the media. You’ve got to dig down and do the hard work of planning to make it happen. But it’s always going to be dictated by the public-health guidance.”

Just last week, Bears chairman George McCaskey said the Bears presented a “good plan” to the city and were told the number of active cases needed to shrink before fans could return.

The Bears issued a statement late Friday attempting the counter Lightfoot’s claim, saying they’ve had “weekly communication” with her office about the pandemic and the potential for fans at their games.

“In mid-August we reviewed a detailed plan with city and public health officials to assess the feasibility of allowing a limited number of fans to attend Bears games,” the team said in a statement. ‘The plan was the result of weeks of collaboration among the Bears, ASM Global, the Chicago Park District and health experts. It addresses City, State and NFL guidelines to ensure a safe environment for everyone inside the stadium. After the review, all parties agreed the timing to welcome fans was not right given the current health metrics.

“On August 17, both the Bears and City issued statements referencing the plan . . . and the hope to return fans to Soldier Field, but not until health metrics improved. We continue to work closely with members of the Mayor’s staff [to determine] the right time to bring fans back.”

The Bears will not have fans inside Soldier Field for their home opener Sunday. The Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs and Dolphins are among the only NFL teams that are allowing fans in their stadiums in September.

Lightfoot said the city is “just coming out of a spike in cases” that started in late July and continued through August and early September. A “downward trend” started seven-to-10 days ago, but Chicago’s positivity rate is still “not where anyone would like it” to be, she said.

“Having a conversation about throwing hundreds of people into a venue like Soldier Field when we are still seeing an uptick of cases isn’t responsible,” Lightfoot said. ‘‘It doesn’t mean we can’t plan for contingencies.’’