LAKE FOREST, Ill. –The Chicago Bears on Tuesday released their concept plans for the development of the 326-acre Arlington Park property, which includes the construction of a domed stadium.
In what the organization calls “one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history,” the Bears plan to build a mixed-use entertainment district anchored by a “new premier gated stadium order, giving Chicagoland a worthy new home or hosting global events like the Super Bowl, college football playoffs and the Final Four.”
The Bears penned an open letter vowing not to seek public funding for the “direct construction of the stadium structure”, but expressed a desire with various government agencies to secure additional funding and assistance for the rest of the development , which would also include restaurants, office space, a hotel, a fitness center, new parks and open spaces.
Last September, the Bears took a step toward leaving historic Soldier Field when they signed a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with Churchill Downs Inc. for the property. in suburban Arlington Heights after the track, which has hosted thoroughbred racing since 1927, was put up for sale.
The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033, but the team can end the lease as early as 2026 for an estimated $84 million. In January, team President and CEO Ted Phillips said the organization plans to close the Arlington Park course in early 2023. In its open letter, the team continued to express assumptions about the project.
“If we close the property, it does not guarantee that we will develop it,” the team’s statement read.
Still, the Bears say they are moving forward only by focusing on developing a stadium on the Arlington Heights property and disregarding proposed renovations to their current 50-year-old home. In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined three options for building a dome over Soldier Field.
“While we are under contract with the seller of Arlington Park, we will not discuss or explore other alternative stadium sites or opportunities, including Soldier Field renovations,” the Bears said. “Much remains to be decided, but any decision will be made in the best interest of the long-term future of the Bears, our fans and the Chicagoland community.”
The Bears said construction of the proposed project is expected to create more than 48,000 jobs, resulting in an economic impact of $9.4 billion for Chicagoland. The completed project is expected to create more than 9,750 long-term jobs and generate $1.4 billion in annual economic benefits for the region.