Wisch: A Second NFL Team Could Be Chicago’s ‘Super’ Solution

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) By playing host to the spectacle that was Super Bowl XLVI, the city of Indianapolis pumped perhaps as much as $400 million into its local economy, basked in the glory of national media attention and reveled in the giddiness of a week-long, star-studded party.

Meanwhile, up here in Chicago, we twiddled our thumbs and watched on TV as Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI, pumped perhaps as much as $400 million into its local economy, basked in the glory of national media attention and reveled in the giddiness of a week-long, star-studded party.


On the day of the big game, Chicago Tribune business columnist Phil Rosenthal reported from Indy how residents of the Windy City “know what’s been going on just three hours away by car here in Indiana’s capital, home to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI, so close, so valuable and yet so out of reach to Chicago for so many reasons.”

Reasons such as Chicago’s brain trust deciding a decade ago to foolishly build the NFL’s smallest stadium (capacity: 61,500) in the NFL’s second largest market (9.46 million metro area population).

And reasons such as the city’s failure to equip said stadium with a retractable roof, despite its location along a bitterly cold Midwestern lakefront.

And also how that pesky detail renders Chicago’s largest event facility essentially useless during the winter and spring months when other towns are using their covered NFL arenas to host such financial bonanzas as Super Bowls (Indy), Final Fours (New Orleans this year and Indy numerous times in the past) and Big Ten Football Championship Games (Indy again).

You can guarantee that if Indianapolis was awarded a Super Bowl and, jeez, Detroit was awarded a Super Bowl, Chicago – the Midwest’s biggest and best city – would absolutely be awarded one.

You know, if it could realistically be awarded one.

Chicago can’t host the Super Bowl – or any other revenue-generating cold-weather extravaganza – because it’s locked in to the logistical boondoggle that is Soldier Field and the financial fiasco of its bond payments through 2032.

The reality is, there’s no fixing the Soldier Field situation for Chicago. Not any time soon. But what if that didn’t matter and there was a work-around option that gave Chicago a legitimate excuse to build a new retractable-roof facility that’s suited to host Super Bowls, Final Fours and any other coveted wintertime event?

What if there was an option that, while extremely complicated, may offer a shockingly simple solution to the city’s stadium woes?

What if – and brace yourself, Bears fans – Chicago recruited a second NFL franchise?

Now, before you blow a gasket over that idea, first ponder these details: On the Thursday night before the Super Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked shop with Bob Costas on NBC Sports Network and said that if the NFL puts a team back in Los Angeles, it’s likely that the league would expand to 34 franchises.

“We probably don’t want to go to 33,” Goodell told Costas, while explaining that he also doesn’t want to move an existing team to L.A. from another city.

The next day, during his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, Goodell backtracked and claimed that the NFL has not considered expansion, nor does it have immediate plans to do so. But don’t believe that. If the league wasn’t considering it, he wouldn’t have discussed it just the day before.

“We would like to be back in Los Angeles if we can do it correctly,” Goodell admitted, explaining that there are several issues that must be resolved with L.A., most significantly which of the city’s two current stadium proposals is best.

Goodell didn’t name any timetable for the NFL making its return to Southern California, nor did he address the curious speculation that has recently swirled about how L.A.’s new stadium could actually house not one, but two NFL expansion franchises.

Now, considering how both the Rams and Raiders have fled L.A., I find that idea preposterous. Los Angeles barely needs – or wants – one NFL team. It certainly doesn’t deserve to have two.

But does Chicago?

What if instead of giving two franchises to the nation’s second largest media market (L.A.), which doesn’t seem to much care about pro football, the NFL put a second franchise in the nation’s third largest media market (Chicago), which lives and breathes the sport?

Now, of course, the immediate question among Chicagoans is if there is a crying demand in Chicago for a second NFL team. I’d say, clearly there isn’t. Fans might be frustrated with Bears management and ownership, but the team itself is beloved. However, the pressure applied by a second team might whip the Bears’ brass into shape.

Beyond all that, though, the more pressing issue is, could Chicago actually support a second franchise? And I suspect that over time, yes, it probably could.

After all, once upon a time – and for a long time – the city did have two NFL teams, you know. From 1920 to 1959, the Chicago Cardinals called the Windy City home, playing their games on the South Side, primarily at Comiskey Park, while the Bears tore up the turf at Wrigley Field on the North Side.

You know, just like the city’s two baseball teams.

In an editorial published in the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 3 and entitled, “A Chicago Super Bowl! Oh … wait … sorry …,” the newspaper recounted how in 2001, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois – in the hopes of protecting Soldier Field from desecration – proposed the construction of an 80,000-seat domed stadium on 23 acres of public land across 35th Street from what’s now U.S. Cellular Field. If that had been done, the Bears would have effectively become a “South Side” team that was embraced by the entire city.

Chicago has already proven that its territorial passions are diverse and powerful enough to support two Major League Baseball teams (admittedly, one of them better than the other).

So, my question is what if the city was to play off that regional pride and found a location similar to the 35th Street site for a new state-of-the-art, multi-purpose indoor facility? Over time – perhaps a entire generation – I could imagine that ultimately leading to a second NFL franchise being embraced as the city’s “South Side” team.

Now, I write about sports, not business. So, I have no clever suggestions on how any such new facility could be paid for by Chicago, especially without further burdening taxpayers who are already on the hook for the next 20 years on any shortfalls on Soldier Field’s interest payments.

But I do know this, if Goodell would seriously consider putting two teams in L.A., I have to imagine that he’d have some interest in instead putting two in Chicago. And I’m quite certain that Chicago would love to host the lucrative sporting events that an enclosed football arena would surely attract.

Earlier this month, BleacherNation.com proposed a handful options for placing an NFL expansion team. Besides L.A., the website suggested Toronto, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Portland.

All fine cities, but I’m not sure that any of them would have the same passion for pro football that Chicago already enjoys. Nor do I think they have a need a retractable-roof facility in the same ways that the Windy City does.

Now, you can go ahead and call my second-NFL-team-in-Chicago idea crazy, if you like. But it just might be crazy like a fox.

davewisch Wisch: A Second NFL Team Could Be Chicago’s ‘Super’ Solution

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

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  • Spoon

    Yay! That’s what we need alright, that way we can have the same atmosphere of fun-loving competition that Cubs and Sox fans have during the summer all year long. I’ll pass, 6 months of a 4yr old level of “my team is better than yours” is more than enough.

  • J-Dubya

    I’ve never thought about adding a second team in Chicago. That is interesting food for thought.

    My initial reaction is that our roots are too deep with the Bears. One team for too long. I don’t think that anything like this has ever been done before, so it is tough to say how it would go over.

    Obviously other cities do it. New York State has three teams, San Francisco/Oakland, etc. My initial reaction is if SF/Oakland can do it than Chicago certainly can.

    This city desperately needs a field with a lid. Add a possible bowl game to your list of things that we could host.

    It is ridiculous that we don’t have one.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      The SF/Oakland example was exactly what came to my mind when thinking about it, J-Dubya. Certainly it would take some time for Chicagoland to fully embrace a second franchise. As you pointed out, the Bears roots are deep. That said, a lot of people live in the metro area, too. And if the Bay Area can support two teams, I have a difficult time seeing how the Windy City couldn’t do it, as well.

      Beyond that, the benefits of having an enclosed facility would be enormous for the city. Difficult to even calculate that value.

    • jeff


  • Me

    Give it a rest, Chicago. The world doesn’t always revolve around you. Suck it up.

    • Spoon

      What complete failure of literacy led you to believe something in this story suggested that the whole world revolves around Chicago?

    • Jza

      Maybe, but Pro-Football was born in Chicago. Your turn, Slurp!

  • Sol Rosenberg

    Chicago is a categorical failure at everything it tries so why would this be any different. Too half witted to build a dome. Way to go genius planners!

    Chicago… the city of corrupt laws, corrupt cops, and even more corrupt politicians. What could go wrong?


    • Spoon

      Yah, how dare they not plan a large enough stadium with a dome to host a Super Bowl when it was planned out…. in 1919…

      • Sol Rosenberg

        listen fool. I was referring to not upgrading it to a dome when they had the chance during the far more recent remodeling.

        You sound like you probably work for the city

    • Jza

      Good thing Jewish people didn’t plan the construction of Solider Field. It would be called sol feild HA! A dome? Really? You obviously didn’t play football in your youth. And imagine that, a Jewish person ad hominem in your reply about something you know nothing about.

  • What The Heck, I'll Say It

    But can Meatballs change their Sauce?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Excellent question. Haha. :)

  • Timothy

    AM i the only one who remembers years ago there was a plan to build a dome stadium next to comiskey park?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      No, Timothy, I remember, too. Which is why I mentioned that in my column above :)

  • Henry John

    We could have had a domed stadium when Soldier Field was remodeled, but the forces that be (read Wirtz and the United Center) did not want anything to supplant the biggest existing inside venue. The idea of a second franchise is a good one, but another stadium could only be built with private funding… and if you haven’t noticed, private funding is tough to find right now.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Yep, I certainly noticed, Henry. And, obviously, that would be the trickiest part of any such proposal. As I wrote, I don’t have any clever ideas where funding could come from. But when it comes to those matters, there are certainly many people a whole lot more clever than me. So, perhaps, one of them would have an idea.

  • Ak

    LA > Chicago

    • Jza

      You do realize this is a LOCAL tv station talking about this. So you are obviously trolling. We in Chicago laugh at insecure LA folk.

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    34 teams Roger?
    This is, already, a league that cannot find enough real NFL quarterbacks and wide receivers. In a, supposed, passing league. That is a problem.
    Blow up Jacksonville and have them kick the ball around Century City.
    Or, San Diego.
    Personally, I’d love to see a 28 team league. But, two in Chicago is intriguing. That draft record is impossible to duplicate.

  • Casey

    Just a thought… When the Bears are jokingly referred to as “Da Bears”, thanks to some entertaining work put together on SNL, it refers to Bears fans speaking with a “Chicago” accent. That’s a strictly Southside accent: it originates Bridgeport. If another NFL team was brought to the city, put it on the Northside. It may take a new franchise to be successful. Northsiders are used to teams that don’t win championships.

  • http://www.footballnewspro.com/?p=4026 NFL Draft top 50 prospects: Nos. 11-30 – SportingNews.com | Football News Pro

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  • Jza

    Superbowl in Chicago, HA! Never. Must be a slow news week. every 5 years or so this topic comes up. Walter Payton tried to bring another team here, also won’t happen in our lifetime. Would be cool though. Hmm, maybe thru global warming Chicago will host the SB, until then domes and warm climates own it.

  • http://www.nflgame.net/news/how-to-pass-time-until-the-draft-nfl-gridiron-gab How To Pass Time Until The Draft – NFL GridIron Gab | NFLGame.Net

    […] on NFL Network.NFL Power Rankings: Ranking the Best Under-.500 Teams for Next YearBleacher ReportWisch: A Second NFL Team Could Be Chicago's 'Super' SolutionCBS LocalAndrew Luck is the only lock this yearBoston HeraldRant Sports -Revenge of the […]

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    […] CBS Local […]

  • Tom Curtin


    My idea for a stadium dates back to when the debate over Solder Field was taking place. Let’s upgrade the University of Illinois – Chicago to a major football team school ala the UCLA Bruins. A covered stadium near the UIC campus could serve a 2nd NFL team if that would help financing.

  • dd

    The state of Illinois is bankrupt. The city of Chicago is bankrupt. Indiana has a surplus bank account. The political corruption and incompetence in Illinois must be overcome before there will be an investment in a $1B stadium! The Democrats gave Chicago Soldier Field and it is like everything else in Illinois – low class. Heck, the sports writers in Illinois even vote Democrat to get this junk?

  • mackie

    There are two mlb teams in chicago and few world series here at all.
    (sarcasm here.)
    2 teams dont solve a thing.
    Has this author ever been to a super bowl city?
    It is partially the weather. fans, attendees, sportswriters, etc spend a week in the host city and who wants to freeze their butt off in chicago winter.
    how many conventions are there in january in chicago? ZERO

    • J-Dubya

      You’re missing the fact that Detroit, Indianapolis, and, soon to be, NYC, have hosted/will host Super Bowls.

  • Registered Voter

    This is representative of the even greater problems that exist in Chicago. The stadium redesign into what exists today is a classic example of the way business operates in Chicago…corruption at it’s finest.

    This city is bankrupt. The state is bankrupt. Yet the political machine continues to move forward dishing out “favors” to those in line for political payback. Do you really think the bidding for the renovation/replacement of Solider Field was done on a fair and level bidding table? It was handled just like the parking meters in Chicago were…just like the renovation of O’Hare was…just like the Illinois Tollway increases…just like the METRA rate increases…just like everything else.

    Too short sited to see ahead…the political machine pays back whoever it needs to…unlike an example in any other major city where the owners/developers of the facility/franchise look to make a sound business decision and forward think of the potential revenue gained from hosting events.

    The city of Chicago can only dream of hosting an event like the Olympics or a Superbowl…the politicians have seen to the destruction of the economy through outrageous operating costs/taxes…who in their right mind would pursue another NFL franchise in the city?!

    CBS Chicago should investigate the mismanagement of the Governor’s office and budget failures at the state level…that would make for an interesting news article heading into an election cycle.


  • Fletchguy

    I really doubt Chicago would take to a 2 NFL team idea. If anything you have to figure out how to build a multiuse stadium with a retractable roof…although footbal should always be played in open air and on real grass, that could be built football ready. It could be used for concerts, soccer matches, events, and yes a super bowl. This would take the issue of the sod at Soldier Feild being destroyed and making it a bad surface for the Bears, give full season usage, and offer a place to host a superbowl. While we are at it toss an NBA team back in St louis.

  • Lefty

    A domed stadium in Chicago is sacreligious for baseball or football alike. Sell it to the Packers, heck they can play in Milwaukee again for all I care.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Retractable roof, Lefty. Not domed.

      • Lefty

        Different construction…Same effect. Not a fan.

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