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News of the Bears inking a $197.2 million agreement to buy a giant parcel of land in Arlington Heights shook Chicago awake early Wednesday like a frigid gust off the lakefront during a January game at Soldier Field.

The deal is far from done, but it signals the Bears are serious about exploring a move out of Chicago to build a new state-of-the-art stadium, and not merely bluffing as Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested in June when the team’s interest in the land first surfaced. Wednesday’s agreement allows for the Bears to more closely study constructing a stadium at the 326-acre site of Arlington International Racecourse, where owner Churchill Inc. held its final horse races last weekend.

But like most big decisions in business, sports — and government — the final call will rely heavily on the finances.

The McCaskey family that owns the Bears has been tight-lipped about its pursuit of a new home, and the Bears remain a private business enterprise, which leaves many of the questions about how the team might finance a potentially multibillion dollar stadium unanswered for now.

What is more clear is the potential cost to the city of Chicago if its marquee tenant for Soldier Field leaves, and how much the Bears might have to pony up to break their lease with the city.

Here’s a look at some of the money matters surrounding the team’s possible bolt to the ‘burbs:

This, of course, largely would be up to the Bears. But the price tags on several new stadiums in the NFL suggest the cost would approach $2 billion, if not more.

A Tribune analysis in July found that the average cost of the seven most recent NFL stadiums was $2.2 billion in today’s dollars. The breakdown:

  • Allegiant Stadium — Las Vegas: $1.9 billion, opened in 2020
  • SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles: $5.5 billion, opened in 2020
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta: $1.5 billion, opened in 2017 ($1.64 billion today)
  • US Bank Stadium — Minneapolis: $1.1 billion, opened in 2016 ($1.23 billion today)
  • Levi’s Stadium — San Francisco: $1.3 billion, opened in 2014 ($1.47 billion today)
  • MetLife Stadium — New York: $1.7 billion, opened in 2010 ($2.1 billion today)
  • AT&T Stadium — Dallas: $1.4 billion, opened in 2009 ($1.85 billion today)

The land alone would cost the Bears $197.2 million, according to Wednesday’s announcement, but the team would not need the entire 326-acre site for the stadium and parking, leaving other development opportunities. Churchill Downs said Wednesday it anticipated closing the sale in late 2022 or early 2023.

This seems unlikely — at least in a major way.

If the Bears moved to Arlington Heights, it’s not hard to envision the suburb picking up some costs related to infrastructure in and around the stadium site. Beyond that, a major public financing of a Bears stadium would be a stretch — especially considering it’s only been 17 years since the completion of the $690 million Soldier Field renovation that placed a glass and steel saucerlike structure atop the limestone and colonnades of the original 1924 monument to veterans of World War I.

Taxpayers covered $432 million of the Soldier Field renovation project, a figure that will balloon substantially once the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and interest are paid off in 2032. Both the city and state remain cash-strapped amid deep budget challenges, making the political appetite to fund yet another stadium hard to fathom.

A kick sails over a mass of Bear defenders to clear the crossbar and give Washington a 3-0 lead at Soldier Field on Nov. 14, 1971. The Bears have played their home games at Soldier Field since 1971. (Ray Gora / Chicago Tribune)

This is harder to decipher. Unlike many NFL teams, the Bears are not owned by a billionaire who was independently wealthy before the purchase of the team.

The McCaskey family’s wealth is believed to largely be derived from the team, which Forbes has valued at $3.5 billion. That value, of course, only would come to fruition with a sale.

With family matriarch Virginia McCaskey, the daughter of founding owner George Halas, closing in on her 99th birthday, there has been speculation for years that the next generation of McCaskeys might pursue a sale.