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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears on Tuesday released their conceptual 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 the history of the state of Illinois,” the Bears envision building a multipurpose entertainment district anchored by a “new, best-in-class indoor stadium that gives Chicagoland a new home worthy of hosting for global events such as the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff and the Final Four.”
The Bears wrote an open letter pledging not to seek public funding for “direct stadium structure construction,” but expressed a desire with various state agencies to secure additional funding and assistance for the remainder of the development, which would also include restaurants, office space, a hotel, gym, 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 soon as 2026 for an estimated $84 million. In January, team president and CEO Ted Phillips said the organization expects to close on the ground at Arlington Park in early 2023. In its open letter, the team continued to express hypotheticals surrounding the project.
“Closing the property does not guarantee that we will develop it,” the team’s statement read.
Still, the Bears say they are moving forward solely focused on developing a stadium on the Arlington Heights property and not considering the proposed renovations to their current home of the past 50 years. In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid out 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 options, including renovations to Soldier Field,” 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 and result in $9.4 billion in economic impact for Chicagoland. The completed project is expected to create more than 9,750 long-term jobs and result in $1.4 billion in annual economic impact for the area.