Bears to unveil plans for Arlington Heights stadium site

The Bears will unveil conceptual plans for their potential new home in Arlington Heights on Sept. 8, the team said Thursday.

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A photo of pre-game fireworks at Soldier Field for a 2019 Bears-Packers game.

The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971.

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The Bears will unveil conceptual plans for their potential new home in Arlington Heights on Sept. 8.

The meeting, which will be held at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, will detail what a Bears statement called “one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history.” The stadium site will feature a “transit-oriented mixed-use entertainment district.” The meeting will not feature specifics about a stadium design.

The Bears are in escrow for the former Arlington Racetrack site, for which they signed a $197.2 million purchase agreement last year. President/CEO Ted Phillips said in January he anticipated closing on the land to take until the end of this year and possibly even drag into early 2023.

“Our focus for long-term development is exclusively on that property at Arlington Park,” Phillips said in January.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said neither he nor members of the Arlington Heights village board would be part of the community meeting intended to field concerns and suggestions from residents of the suburb. 

But Hayes said he expects the village to take up more substantial discussion about their negotiations with the team later this month. 

“We expect to get this ball rolling soon,” Hayes said. 

The village board is next scheduled to convene Tuesday. 

While their current home at Soldier Field is historic, its stature is diminished by its deficiencies compared to state-of-the-art stadiums around the NFL. Soldier Field opened in 1924 and earned National Historic Landmark status in 1984 before losing it in 2006 after renovations left it with a mismatched look as though a spaceship had landed on top of the iconic columns.

Almost every stadium in the league far exceeds Soldier Field’s comfort and amenities, and late-season games on the lakefront can be brutally cold. It has been widely assumed that any new stadium would be indoors.

It has also been problematic for the Bears to rent the stadium from the Chicago Park District rather than owning their own building. That arrangement severely limits what they can do with the facility and cuts into revenue.

Soldier Field also has the NFL’s smallest capacity at about 62,000. There are 13 stadiums that can hold 70,000-plus, and most of those are in smaller markets than the Chicago area.

Building a stadium in Arlington Heights would immediately put the area in line to host a Super Bowl (currently sites are scheduled through the 2025 game). The league has rewarded every team that has done so with a Super Bowl, even if it’s not part of the regular rotation. The Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016 and hosted the Super Bowl in 2018.

Mitchell Armentrout contributed to this story.

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