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Hammond: Imagining a Super Bowl in Arlington Heights

SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, hosted Super Bowl LVI on Sunday between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. Seven years ago, the NFL’s newest mega-stadium was just a twinkle in Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s eye. In reality, the site was an out-of-commission racetrack. As the Bears embark on their own journey to purchase an old racetrack in Arlington Heights and turn into the NFL’s next gleaming coliseum of football, one can only dream what a Super Bowl in Chicago might look like. The following is a glimpse into the future.

It’s February 2029. The eyes of the NFL turn toward Chicago.

For the first time in the 109-year history of the of the NFL, the Chicago region is hosting a Super Bowl. Not since the Bears hosted the 1963 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants at Wrigley Field has the region hosted the NFL’s biggest game.

Never has it hosted a Super Bowl. Until now.

The Bears are hosting Super Bowl LXIII at their brand-spanking new stadium in Arlington Heights, dubbed (enter multi-million dollar sponsorship name here) Stadium.

The Kansas City Chiefs and 33-year-old veteran quarterback Patrick Mahomes will try to win their third Super Bowl together against the upstart New Orleans Saints and hometown quarterback Arch Manning, making his first Super Bowl appearance.

The lead up to the big game is unlike anything Chicago has seen since the World Series made its return to Wrigley Field for the first time in 71 years. That was more than a decade ago now.

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Sure, it’s cold. This is February in Chicago. But cold never stopped the NFL in its pursuit of the almighty dollar. Showcasing its newest stadiums via the Super Bowl is the NFL’s second-favorite past time, behind raking in money.

All week long, the festivities have raged on. Fans streamed into McCormick Place for the annual Super Bowl Experience interactive theme park. They flocked to the United Center for the Super Bowl Music Fest concert events across the weekend. They are eagerly awaiting the Chicago-themed halftime show featuring Kanye West and Chance the Rapper.

All the downtown sites are especially busy for mid-February. The ice rinks at Millennium Park and Gallagher Way are packed. Chicago’s esteemed museums are full. Chicagoans will reiterate that nobody really needs to visit Navy Pier, but the pier is packed with tourists nonetheless. The NFL has taken over downtown Chicago, much as it did in 2015 when the city hosted the NFL draft. The Lombardi Trophy stopped for a photo op with its equally shiny counterpart, the bean.

Out in the suburbs, the Bears have followed the footsteps of their peers and built a stadium that puts old Soldier Field to shame. They have included elements of all the recent stadiums built across the league. There’s the natural lighting of SoFi Stadium’s translucent roof, with additional lighting pouring through the windows on either side of the end zone. There’s the permanent stage off to one side of the upper deck, much like Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, which could play host to live pregame shows and halftime entertainment during the season. Like U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota, the Bears’ new stadium has been engineered to trap noise inside, making it one of the best home field advantages in the NFL.

And this mecca of NFL football is all dressed up for the game. Super Bowl LXIII banners hang all across the stadium and flash by on the video boards. The George S. Halas statue outside the stadium sees a scene that Papa Bear himself could’ve only dreamed of.

Fans stream into Arlington Heights on game day. Restaurants and hotels are packed across the northwest suburbs, and especially so in the complex the Bears have built around their new stadium. There are plenty of Bears jerseys represented in the festivities, among the jerseys of the participating teams. Even team president Ted Phillips gets a stray high-five from Bears fans after orchestrating the construction of this building.

Tickets to the game are going for ungodly sums on resale markets. The crowd begins filing in two hours before kickoff. George McCaskey takes a walk along the field level before the game, then heads upstairs to his suite, where he will watch with the commissioner and the governor. His team has made the playoffs a time or two since embarking on this Arlington Heights adventure seven years ago, but is still searching for its first Super Bowl championship since 1985.

Televisions all across the country and the world will tune in and see this beautiful stadium the Bears have built. Football fans will find their seats before their flat screen televisions, snacks filling the coffee tables before them. Inside the stadium, as the teams line up for kickoff, the fans in the stands will hold up their iPhone 20s and a roar will rise as the kicker approaches the ball.

The world will be watching.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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