For many years, the Chicago Bears have maintained offices in the bowels of Soldier Field for the corporate partnerships and suite sales/service departments. This year, the team called an audible, and decided to shift most of the staff members to a new space in Chicago’s Loop.
And this was no lateral move. The Bears have significantly upgraded their office space with the relocation to 123 N. Wacker Drive. The 35 employees now occupy an 11,000-square-foot leased office space, about three times larger than what they had back at the stadium.
HOK was the architect for the downtown office, along with the previously announced Halas Hall expansion project for the team’s main office in Lake Forest, Illinois. J.C. Anderson served as the team’s general contractor while Corporate Concepts helped to furnish the space. JLL served as the organization’s property broker.
“The Bears’ new downtown offices will be a showcase space for the organization,” said HOK’s interior designer, Mary Campbell. “Throughout the design process, the team was committed to creating a warm, welcoming environment for their staff and a destination for guests and partners in the heart of Chicago. These offices celebrate the Bears brand—their legacy, history and trajectory—through design.”
The new Loop location includes eight private offices pushed to the interior, allowing natural light—something woefully missing in their previous location—to penetrate all workstations in the open-concept floor plan. Elsewhere, a 418-square-foot conference space, named the “Papa Bear Conference Room” after the organization’s founder, George Halas, overlooks the Chicago River.
Another conference room took on the tongue-in-cheek moniker that their office as a whole has held for years, “Halas Hall South.” This room has a more boisterous feel with artwork highlighting the franchise’s history as a charter organization in the NFL as well as on-field achievements such as the Bears’ nine championships and 28 hall of fame inductees.
“We fashion ourselves as a humble organization. But we wanted one room that really shouted, ‘Hey, we’ve been around and we’ve done some things,'” said Doug Carnahan, vice president of corporate partnerships with the Chicago Bears.
Many offices have huddle spaces these days, but for the Bears, “The Huddle Room” is quite literally that, with a pixelated graphic of players in a huddle stretched across one wall. Other spaces allow employees to get away from their desks, including two private phone rooms, two lounge spaces, a cafe and a wellness room for nursing mothers or other staff needs.
Anywhere that made sense, the design and artwork was informed by the organization’s tradition and history. Guests entering the space are greeted by a reception desk in the Bears’ signature “C” shape while the main hallway is subtly decorated with “Bronk’s Favorite,” an offensive formation of Xs and Os literally taken from George Halas’ playbook.
One wall features the words to the team’s fight song, while an exposed brick wall in the cafe has an original mural created by local graffiti artist Stuk One, depicting the city skyline on top of a bear’s back, all in front of the Chicago flag. In other locations, parts of the wall include a “turf” overlay along with stenciled metal team slogans.
“We’re embarking on our 100th season next year, and of course our team is ascending, so there’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around here,” said Carnahan.
The decision to move downtown was an easy one, as it brought the organization closer to its stakeholders and partners. It also positions the sales and service departments for growth, as a Loop location is ideal for attracting young talent.
“Walking into the Bears’ new office demonstrates how much they embody team spirit both on and off the field. It’s open, collaborative and buzzing with activity, empowering employees to perform at their best for the fans,” said JLL’s managing director David Miller. “Additionally, locating close to their clients allows the team to strengthen and develop new long-lasting partnerships.”
Situated on the southeast corner of Randolph and Wacker, the 30-story 123 N. Wacker Drive is located within blocks of Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center and various CTA stations. Building amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness center and renovations are underway on a tenant lounge, conference center, private tenant roof deck and other spaces. During the regular season, the exterior lights above the building’s entrance and around the 28th floor’s outdoor deck will light up blue and orange on the night before and of each Bears game.