‘We nailed it’: Easy to see what Bears CEO Kevin Warren envisions in Arlington Heights stadium
Warren plans to begin official team business in April and said he expects to have more concrete details on the stadium plans by July.
The new stadium the Bears imagine in Arlington Heights is still just a grand idea, and new team president Kevin Warren didn’t offer any of the concrete details everyone has been waiting for since the organization bid on the property in 2021.
Warren will need some definitive answers, though, because this surely will be the biggest undertaking of his new job. And he expects to have them soon.
The top question anyone has about the new stadium is when it will open, and Warren said Tuesday he would be able to answer that in six months. By that time, he will have done a full review of where things stand and the Bears presumably will have closed on the land. They still hope to finish that process by the end of March.
Warren and chairman George McCaskey reiterated the team’s standing line — one it is contractually required to give publicly until it completes the purchase — that it is focused exclusively on developing the 326-acre site at the former Arlington International Racecourse rather than considering any of proposed options to overhaul Soldier Field.
Warren has more than two decades of experience as an NFL executive and brings plenty to the table, but one of the most crucial lines on his résumé is that he was a key figure in the Vikings’ construction of U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016. That building, a 67,000-seat indoor facility with tons of natural light because of its glass panels, long has been admired within Halas Hall.
‘‘When we finished the stadium, I had all these boxes of binders, and many people said, ‘You can get rid of those; you’ll never use those again,’ ’’ Warren said with a smile at his introductory news conference. ‘‘I’m glad I saved them.
‘‘The biggest thing I learned was the fact that you need to plan before you start digging. What makes U.S. Bank Stadium so special [is] we spent almost a year planning. Planning is critical. That’s what I appreciate about the McCaskeys: They support the planning process.’’
When McCaskey was pressed for his opinion on U.S. Bank Stadium and how it might inform his wish list for an Arlington Heights stadium, he said, ‘‘It was built on time and under budget.’’
While Warren didn’t divulge his dreams for the new stadium, there’s no doubt he has some. A self-described ‘‘stadium nerd,’’ he was so intrigued by word that the Bears were trying to buy the property that he drove to the site last fall purely out of curiosity.
‘‘You don’t get many times to have over 300 acres,’’ he said. ‘‘It is a very attractive, unique stadium site.
‘‘I’m not letting my mind go through what it looks like too much. I’ve visualized it, yes, but I want to get into the documents because the documents will dictate what’s feasible.’’
There’s almost no shot of the stadium opening any sooner than the 2027 season, and even that would be a best-case scenario. The Bears’ lease on Soldier Field runs through 2033, and while they’ve said they’ll honor its terms, that doesn’t preclude them from buying themselves out of it early.
While it always has been expected that the Bears would look at U.S. Bank Stadium as a model, that’s even more likely now that they hired a man who was ‘‘really proud’’ of how that building turned out when he was the Vikings’ COO and raved about every aspect of it when asked Tuesday.
‘‘We nailed it,’’ he said emphatically. ‘‘By far.’’
There’s little mystery, then, about what Warren will view as the gold standard if the Bears proceed in Arlington Heights.