LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears have taken another major step towards building a new stadium in the suburbs.
On Wednesday, the team confirmed that they have closed on the Arlington Park property, which they initially placed a purchase agreement on in September 2021. It marks the team’s biggest step so far in making a move out of the City of Chicago in their efforts to build a new domed stadium in the northwest suburbs.
The 326-acre site is the former home of the Arlington Park race track, which was closed in the fall of 2021.
“Finalizing the purchase does not guarantee the land will be developed, but it is an important next step in our ongoing evaluation of the opportunity,” said the team in a statement on Wednesday. “There is still a tremendous amount of due diligence work to be done to determine if constructing an enclosed state-of-the-art stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district is feasible.”
If they do complete this, it will mark their first permanent home outside of the city limits since moving from Decatur after the 1920 season. From 1921 through 1970 they played at Wrigley Field and have called Soldier Field home since 1971. That venue underwent a major remodel in 2002 and the majority of 2003, with the Bears playing their home games for the 2002 & 2003 preseason at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
“While this closing marks a major development in the ongoing evaluation, there has been no decision that the development of the recently acquired property will occur. But today’s news is nonetheless an exciting update and positions our state and the Chicagoland region to be able to host world-class entertainment and sporting events on an unprecedented scale,” said the Bears in a statement. “We look forward to continuing this evaluation with the Village of Arlington Heights, surrounding governmental bodies and the General Assembly in the coming months, and conveying what we believe is necessary to transform the recently purchased, largely dormant Arlington Heights property into one of the most iconic mega-project entertainment and destination points in the world.”
The Village of Arlington Heights released a statement shortly after the team announced that they had closed on the property.
“The Village of Arlington Heights is very excited about this unique opportunity and appreciative that the CBFC has chosen to make such a major investment in our community. However, we have an obligation to ensure that any project proposed will be in the best interests of our residents before any approvals are granted. Over the coming months and years, we look forward to working with the CBFC, our residents, and all other stakeholders in an open and transparent manner, while we work to explore the potential opportunities this development could bring to our region. Our goal is to work together to create a new regional destination befitting of the great legacy of the property.”
This continues the process that was started 17 months ago when the team put a purchase agreement in for the property. One year later, in September 2022 the team revealed potential designs for the property that not only called for a domed stadium but also a multi-purpose entertainment, commercial/retail, and housing district in the area.
When announcing the details of this new development, they released potential economic impact numbers as well.
- 48,000 jobs
- $9.4 billion economic impact on Chicagoland area
- $3.9 billion in annual labor income for the region
- 9,750 long-term jobs
- $1.4 billion of economic impact on Chicagoland area
- $601 million annual labor income for the region
Annual Tax Revenue
- $16 million in Arlington Heights
- $9.8 million for Cook County
- $51.3 million for State of Illinois
From the start, the Bears have said they’d pay fully for the new stadium but would need help on other parts of the project, a position which they reiterated today.
“We have publicly stated and repeat here again: If we construct a state-of-the-art stadium, we will not seek taxpayer funds locally or otherwise for the structure. If we proceed, however, this project would require assistance to ensure feasibility, including our securing property tax certainty and support for infrastructure commensurate with the public benefits the project will yield to the region,” said the Bears in their statement. “For the development to move forward, and for this effort to be financially feasible, a public-private partnership addressing predictable taxes and necessary infrastructure funding for public uses is essential. Public funds for infrastructure will provide regional improvements such as roads for better traffic flow and water drainage for residents throughout the area.
“This support, along with the team’s investment, will be crucial to ensuring the local and Illinois economies receive a dramatic, long-lasting influx of investment and new tax revenue of a magnitude never experienced before in the region.”