Jim O'Donnell: Talk of Arlington Park 'Astrodome' began more than 50 years ago

  • There's no roof at Soldier Field, but if the Bears move will they consider a dome ... like they did back in the day?

    There's no roof at Soldier Field, but if the Bears move will they consider a dome ... like they did back in the day? Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/2/2021 11:25 AM

A LITTLE MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS AGO, The Daily Herald ran the headline "It's time for George S. Halas Stadium at Arlington Park."

The core concept wasn't new.


Still, skeptics were slow to comprehend: A new set of circumstances was aligning that makes the idea of the Bears building a new-age colossus on a portion of the land currently housing Arlington Park more plausible than ever.

Downers also cited the fact that "Papa Bear" George Halas, son Mugs Halas and then-Arlington Heights Mayor Jim Ryan held extensive talks starting in 1975 about getting the team to AP.

That initiative failed. It also set off assorted reloads between the Bears and the village -- including past Mayor Bill Maki and Mike McCaskey -- that ended in futility.

Thus, the natterers concluded, it will never happen.

But with the Bears of 2021 officially in the hunt for Arlington land, the caustic chorus is quieting.

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And, a deep archaeological dig produced proof that the original idea of a super stadium at Arlington did, in fact, extend back to the winter of 1968-69.

Track duchess Marje Everett was in the process of completing a merger with Gulf & Western. The $30M stock exchange made Arlington the first publicly held racetrack in America.

In an article dated Feb. 6, 1969, Everett told Chicago Tribune racing reporter Tom Rivera:

"Gulf & Western is also making a feasibility study which could lead to construction of a domed, all-purpose sports arena such as the Astrodome at Houston."

Further truth, at a holiday luncheon two months prior to that scoop du jour, Everett told a daily columnist for the Arlington/Mount Prospect Day, "The Bears could be moving out here. But don't write it yet. The National Football League wants them out of Wrigley Field."


(That columnist ran it past her insouciant paperboy son.)

Now, all past is prologue.

And the core concept isn't new -- just more plausible than ever.

STREET-BEATIN': Speculation continues that Turner Sports is going to figure a way to make Charles Barkley a recurring presence on its NHL studio programming next winter. (Maybe he could do sudden drop-ins like Bob Hope used to do on "The Tonight Show.") ...

Before Justin Fields is inducted in The Pro Football Hall of Fame, the pandering fanboys might want to consider that no quarterback from Ohio State has ever started a Super Bowl, let alone won one. Meaning Youngstown State, Augustana (IL) and Northern Iowa have produced more. ...

Allen Sanderson -- a normally respected sports economist at the University of Chicago -- left some gasping this weekend when he told a gutted regional daily: "The Bears could play in a cornfield in Iowa and it wouldn't make much of a difference on their bottom line." (Has the professor ever heard of ancillary revenues via concerts, major sporting events, et al?) ...

Credible observers are reporting that Maria Taylor wants "Stephen A. Smith money" to stay on at ESPN. That means about $8M per year. (And she's not going to come close unless she asks; Taylor's current salary is an estimated $1M annually.) ...

Pat Hughes can stop the public self-flagellation. Yes, he called the wrong Dodger batting for the final out in the Cubs' recent four-pitchers no-hitter. But, Hughes was working off a monitor 2,000 miles away, and, as Level 42 sang, "Is it so wrong to be human after all?" ...

Personality-challenged Brian Kelly needs 11 wins in the 2021 season to pass Knute Rockne (105) as No. 1 on Notre Dame's all-time football list. (Rockne had sweeping charisma and vision, Kelly could be running the service department at Shamrock Motors and Charlie Weis had Old Country Buffet in Mishawaka.) ...

Barrington-spawned Ryan Lidge -- the Chicago Dogs digger recently profiled in a Sunday Daily Herald -- sent his first home run of the season into the parking deck at Rosemont's Impact Field this week. His batting average continues to hover around .370. ...

John Smoltz told Andy Masur he used to pitch batting practice to good pal Tiger Woods. (Smoltz has an opulent getaway at the Sea Island, Ga., golf resort.) ...

And news Chris Boden is departing the Blackhawks radio setup recalled the Bruce Wolf line, "Aren't Chris Boden and Mark Schanowski the same person, just with a great makeup artist?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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