Why would Mayor Daley want a second NFL team? Sounds like he wants prestige, economic development

Chicago’s former Mayor Daley said he wants a second NFL team for Chicago and a new stadium:

“I really believe we could get a second football team,” the former mayor said. “I’ve always believed — the Chicago Cardinals, Bears — why is it that New York has two? Florida has three, San Francisco has two. Now you think of that, we could easily take — Chicago loves sports and we could get a second team in here.

“You could build a new stadium, you could have huge international soccer teams come in, you could do the Final Four, you could do anything you wanted with a brand new stadium.”

Many in Chicago believe the city should have a stadium with a retractable roof to be able to host events like the Super Bowl and the Final Four. Renovations to Solider Field left the stadium as the second smallest in the NFL. That, coupled with the lack of a roof, makes it a longshot to host a Super Bowl…

“It would be privately funded, the government could help a little bit,” Daley said. “But I’ve always believed we could take a second team. And every Sunday we would have a team playing in the National Football League. That would be unbelievable.”

If I had to guess, here is what I think is behind these comments:

1. This is about prestige and status. Chicago is a world-class city yet other cities, including less notable ones like San Francisco/Oakland, have two teams and Chicago does not. Having another NFL team would generate more attention in and for Chicago plus allow other major events to be held in the new stadium. Chicago could become a center for all sports and grab away some of the business places like Indianapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta, and other places get because of having closed stadiums. Mayor Daley is also old enough to remember the days when Chicago did have a second team, the Chicago Cardinals, that ended up leaving for the Sunbelt. Arguments against this line of thinking: is there really fan interest in a second team? Would Chicagoans easily adapt to a team moving to the city from somewhere else (like the Vikings, Chargers, etc.)? Los Angeles is a world-class city and does not have any team – just because a city has a certain population doesn’t necessarily mean it has to have a certain number of NFL teams.

2. This is about economic growth. Having a second team would bring in more money and more events. A new stadium could be viewed as an economic boon. However, research clearly shows that publicly funded stadiums don’t return money to taxpayers and residents will spend their money on other entertainment options if a sports team is not available. Plus, a new stadium would likely have to be located in a suburban locale (the Bears threatened at various points to move to the northwest suburbs or to Warrenville on what later became the Cantera site) so the economic benefits would be spread throughout the region rather than directly in the city of Chicago.

From a social science perspective, I don’t find the second reason compelling. Government officials tend to justify stadium spending by arguing it will bring economic benefits but I think it is also really about prestige: it helps put or keep the city on the map and also attracts more media attention. The same politicians that don’t want to be the ones held responsible for a favorite team leaving the city would also like to take the credit for adding a new team.

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