In Depth: The Impact Of Bears Taking Training Camp Back To Halas Hall

Cisco Cotto
January 22, 2020 - 6:15 am
Halas Hall Lake Forest

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago Bears are moving their summer training camp back to Halas Hall from Bourbonnais, where the team has been for the past 18 years.

How will this help or hurt the team, and what impact will the departure have on Olivet Nazarene University and the surrounding community? WBBM Newsradio's Cisco Cotto takes a look at these issues and more in this latest edition of In Depth.

The Bears announced last week they were leaving Bourbonnais to do preseason preparations at Halas Hall. WBBM Newsradio’s Jeff Joniak, who does play-by-play for Bears games and covers the team from its Lake Forest headquarters, said the move makes logistical sense for the team, now that renovations are complete at Halas Hall. He calls the state-of-the-art facility the "palace at Halas."

On the downside, fans wonder if they'll lose the access to Bears players they enjoyed at Bourbonnais. Details haven't been announced about the new setup at Halas Hall.

“There’s less and less availability for fans to watch practice live, for a variety of reasons," says Joniak. "There’s a competitive reason to it, because once you open up practice to the fans and you’re not charging admission, any scout can come and sit in the stands, they’d never be known. So, they could be taking notes."

To get a sense of the potential impact on a community that loses an NFL training camp, Cotto talks with Kathy Kopp, executive director of the Platteville Wisconsin Area Chamber of Commerce. The Bears were in Plateville, at the University of Wisconsin campus, from 1984 to 2001.

“The Chicago Bears training camp put Platteville on the map, no doubt about it,” she says. “We were absolutely thrilled every summer when they would come. The hotels would fill up, the restaurants were full. It was just a busy, busy place.”

She said there is still a tight bond between Chicago Bears fans and her community. People are still interested to see the site where the team practiced, she says.

The Bears' decision to return to Lake Forest is good news for the North Shore community. Mayor George A. Pandaleon anticipates the area's hotels will surge during training camp. 

"The Bears have been fabulous neighbors. They've been in Lake Forest for 45 years. They're a great part of the community," he said.

In Depth is the WBBM Newsradio weekly podcast that takes a deep dive into a timely issue. Next week: the rising water levels of Lake Michigan.