Kevin Warren stood inside the George “Mugs” Halas Auditorium in Halas Hall on Tuesday, wearing a navy blue striped suit and orange tie.
His audience was reporters, photographers, family, friends, Bears fans watching from home and the higher ups in the Bears organization: general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus, chairman George McCaskey and outgoing president Ted Phillips.
After speaking for over 50 minutes in his introductory press conference, it was easy to see why Warren is the new president and CEO of the Bears.
Warren’s approach to how he views challenges – which are also opportunities in Warren’s eyes – stems back to an early lesson he learned from his parents.
“You know my parents raised me,” Warren said. “And fortunately, I would say if I had to think of one of the main things that my dad would always say to us and really just put his thumb on us constantly — and my mother — would be: always leave a situation demonstratively better than it was when you got there. So that was always on my mind. My dad always talked about that. And he would say, when I would call him about different opportunities, he would say, ‘From the day you walked into the door to now, is it better? Yes. Is it demonstratively better? Yes. OK, then you can go onto the next job.'”
For the new Bears president and CEO just simply being “better” isn’t an option. Whatever he leaves his fingerprints on, has his name linked to needs to be “demonstratively better.” After securing a multibillion-dollar media rights deal and adding USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, Warren felt like he left the Big Ten Conference in a better place than when he started.
Warren – who calls himself a boring person with no hobbies – naturally and almost instinctively becomes drawn into embarking on new challenges. And he views the Bears current situation as his latest and greatest challenge.
Actions speaker louder than words, but based on who Warren is, his previous accomplishments and his attention to detail, the Bears made the right hire to finally spearhead the organization to a position it has never been to before.
“Kevin possesses the qualities that we were looking for in our next president and CEO,” George McCaskey said. “Leadership, vision, intelligence, decisiveness, humility, a team player, an effective communicator, someone who understands what the Bears are all about. And who can re-energize our staff to get us where we want to go.”
First step for Warren is closing the stadium deal in Arlington Park. Even though he won’t officially start his new position until April, this will be his sole focus early on with the Bears.
For the self-proclaimed “stadium nerd,” this puts Warren right in his element. The Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium is a work of art – from the natural lighting to the ancient warship design to the way it allows the “Skol” chant to bounce off the walls, there was so much done right.
It’s one of Warren’s greatest achievements and now he gets another opportunity to build from the basement up another state-of-the-art facility.
And given Warren’s attitude, he is going to want to construct one of the best stadiums in the NFL, just like he did in Minnesota.
Warren was quick to respond when asked about the thing he was most proud of when it came to building US Bank Stadium.
“I would probably say that we listen to all of our different constituents,” Warren told CHGO. “We listen to our players, we listened to our fans, we listened to the media, you know we listened to the alumni and we were able to bring that all together. And I even think the alumni cabin that we developed (in Minnesota) and they loved it. They still love it. And our players, what was important to them and so to tie all that in and to tell that story. It’s much more than a building, you know, it’s not just a building, it’s not just a stadium. So I think that is the thing that I am most proud of.”
To make the Bears’ future home much more than just a stadium Warren will have to be methodical with all the different factors when dealing with over 300 acres of land. But if there is anyone that can navigate this monumental project, it’s Warren.
Of course the stadium won’t be his only objective, but to also continue building on the culture that has already been created and to ultimately help the Bears become successful on the football field.
“I’m not interested in building something that lasts for a year then goes away,” Warren said. “I want to have sustainability from a long-term standpoint and then from a business operational standpoint, just to look for efficiencies, continually create ideas and ways, be innovative, have vision, and be fearless. I think that’s the greatest thing that we have an opportunity to be able to build upon.”
Warren has seen up close what the Bears mean to the fanbase. He attended the Bears-Eagles game earlier this season and saw elderly fans mixed with the younger generation — all there to support their beloved Bears.
“So I think Chicago, I have said it before, these are the best fans in the NFL,” Warren said. “They deserve championships. We are going to bring championships. We are going to do everything that we possibly can to deliver that and work hard.”
A new stadium, long-term success, championships. Those are all things Bears fans aren’t familiar with, but that’s why Warren is here now – to change the expectations and the landscape of the Bears organization.
“It’s OK to raise the expectations, you know, and put the pressure on us,” Warren told CHGO. “That here is what we need. That’s what I would do if I was a member of the family. All the things are in place here. I mean they really are. Got a fantastic practice facility. We have resources, but I think as I said earlier, people need to get comfortable one being uncomfortable and then talking about championships. Because when you talk about championships, then you have to be about it and you have to put in the work. So instead of wanting a trophy then you got to really want the training that comes along with the trophy, so that is the thing I would say.”
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