Where The Bears Stand In Reopening Facilities

(670 The Score) As Illinois moves toward the third phase of its reopening plan, the Bears will soon be permitted to open the doors of Halas Hall as a defined non-essential business.

The Bears haven't made formal plans to reopen their team facilities, a team spokesman said. Those facilities include the primary headquarters of Halas Hall in Lake Forest as well as Soldier Field and an office building in downtown Chicago. The city of Chicago won't reopen Friday in conjunction with the state, mayor Lori Lightfoot announced.

The city of Lake Forest "has no restrictions beyond the governor's guidelines," mayor George Pandaleon told 670 The Score.

The Bears closed their team facilities on March 16 as the coronavirus pandemic began its spread. Team staff members, including executives, coaches and players, began working remotely. The NFL Draft was held virtually in April, and offseason programs have also been conducted virtually.

Last week, the NFL permitted teams to reopen their facilities to no more than 75 staff members if such a step is allowed by local guidelines. However, members of the coaching staff and players are prohibited from entering "to ensure equity among all 32 clubs," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a league memo. Many teams have followed suit in accordance with local guidelines, including the Packers, starting Tuesday.
Reopening team headquarters is just the first step for the NFL returning from the coronavirus pandemic, and it's a procedural move that doesn't directly affect football operations. Before NFL training camps are set to open two months from now, plenty of action must occur -- both from league offices and at each level of government for the 32 teams. The league could allow coaches to return to team facilities next week and for minicamps to be held in June, Yahoo Sports reported.

Among the four major professional leagues, the NFL is the only one with a set plan to play its season. Of course, its games weren't disrupted by the pandemic like they were in the NBA, NHL and MLB, which are formulating restart plans.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said on May 8 that he would welcome sports back to the state -- initially without spectators -- pending the approval of safe plans presented by each league and team. Governors in states like New York, New Jersey and Florida, among others, have already welcomed sports to resume in their states.

Pritzker has maintained dialogue with commissioners for professional sports leagues, he said. He believes sports can safely return this summer and fall.

"I want to see sports play," Pritzker said on May 8. "I think it's good for everybody. I think they can do it here in Illinois. Especially if you look at the timetable, there's a high likelihood they could do it within a timetable that we're hoping to be able to reopen many businesses."

As part of Illinois' third phase in its reopening, the state will allow all non-essential businesses to reopen Friday.

The Bears have conducted their offseason program virtually, with coach Matt Nagy and his staff embracing work through tools like Zoom. Nagy pointed to the ease of being just a click away from each position group's meeting as one of the benefits.

"There's been some silver linings," Nagy said.

After 18 years of holding training camp at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais, the Bears in January revealed plans to hold camp at Halas Hall starting in 2020. Because of that, the Bears haven't been forced to form contingency plans for training camp.

The Bears hadn't made official plans for practices potentially being open to the public, as they often were back in Bourbonnais. Large gatherings aren't permitted until the fifth phase of Illinois' restoration plan, which the state will reach when "a vaccine or highly effective treatment (becomes) widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period."

Illinois divided into four primary regions in its reopening plan, with all of the Bears' facilities included in the northeast region. Each of the four regions must meet certain metrics for moving into the next phase, including a coronavirus positivity rate at or under 20 percent. Each of the state's four regions are passing in their respective metrics at this time.

The fourth phase of Illinois' reopening plans includes specific guidelines for businesses like restaurants and bars but nothing that would affect a business like the Bears. Beyond the beginning of the third phase, the Bears will be awaiting specific instructions from the NFL.

While leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB form plans to play, the NFL has moved forward without making major contingency plans to its season.

Under current plans, the NFL would hold training camp in July and kick off its season in September, pending approval of local governments.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.