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Bears Taking 'Serious Steps' to Evaluate Arlington Park; Will Honor Current Lease

Erin WalshSeptember 6, 2022

AP Photo/Matt Marton, File

The Chicago Bears are continuing their pursuit of a new stadium at Arlington Park, and they have announced that while they are committed to Soldier Field, they are also taking the necessary steps to evaluate the possibility of moving to a new home.

The franchise made the announcement in a letter released Tuesday:

"‏‏‎We are taking serious steps to evaluate the unique opportunity presented to us. The Bears remain committed to Soldier Field and will honor the terms of its lease. While the prospect of a transit-oriented mixed-use and entertainment district anchored by a new enclosed stadium is exciting for the Bears and the entire state, there is much work to be done before we can close on the property, and then, whether we will develop it. We look forward to working with key partners and stakeholders across the Chicagoland community and State of Illinois in the months ahead."

The Bears signed an agreement in September 2021 for the purpose of acquiring land in Arlington Heights and remain under contract to purchase the 326 acres of land to begin a "new and exciting chapter."

If the Bears close on the Arlington Park property, which is currently owned by Churchill Downs, and decide to develop it, the project will be one of the largest in Illinois history.

"We envision a multi-purpose entertainment district anchored by a new, best-in-class enclosed stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoffs, and Final Four," the franchise said in the letter.

In addition to a new stadium, the development would feature restaurants, office space, a hotel, fitness center and other amenities. The Bears also project the proposed project will create more than 48,000 jobs.

The preliminary renderings show a stadium district on the northwest side of the property and a mixed-used district in the southeast. The stadium shown in the images is being used as a placeholder and is not the actual design.

Kevin Fishbain @kfishbain

Bears release their "Preliminary Master Plan Vision" for Arlington Park in an open letter <a href="https://t.co/vIhozh733o">pic.twitter.com/vIhozh733o</a>

The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971. In 2002, the city of Chicago and the Bears rebuilt the stadium, but it remains the smallest capacity stadium in the NFL at 61,500 despite the franchise playing in one of the largest markets.

Increasing the capacity of Soldier Field while maintaining the historic nature of the stadium would be a significant architectural challenge. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has offered to make upgrades to the stadium, including building a dome over it, in an effort to convince the Bears to stay.

However, the Bears don't own the stadium. It is owned by the Chicago Park District, which means they do not inherit all of the revenue the stadium generates.

If they move to Arlington Heights, the Bears would be able to capitalize on all of the revenue the stadium generates. Combined with a state-of-the-art stadium, that is, unsurprisingly, the more enticing option for the franchise.

The Bears' lease with Soldier Field runs through 2033. If they honor that lease, it will be a while before they move to Arlington Heights.

The franchise opens the 2022 season against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on Sept. 11.

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