The Chicago Bears signed a purchase agreement for arlington international racetrack in September 2021, a move that brings the team one step closer to securing property for a new stadium and leaving its old home at Soldier Field.
the Bears on June 17, 2021, submitted one of several offers to buy the Arlington Heights Property, which Churchill Downs Inc. announced on February 23, 2021, would be for sale for redevelopment. Churchill Downs announced the sale price as $197.2 million and said it anticipated closing the sale in late 2022 or early 2023.
Soldier Field, owned by the Chicago Park District, seats 61,500 fans, the smallest capacity in the NFL. The Bears could also develop the 326-acre property around the stadium with retail, dining and entertainment.
Here’s what you need to know about the possible move of Soldier Field, with the City Council’s reaction to Arlington Heights.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has revealed plans for Soldier Field that could cost up to $2.2 billion as part of her ongoing campaign to prevent the Bears from leaving the city for Arlington Heights, or at least deflect blame if the venerable football team leaves.
Lightfoot’s presentation, delivered at Soldier Field to a group that included the city’s top business leaders, said his administration wants the Bears to stay in Chicago but also make improvements to the Museum Campus on which it is located, even if they leave.
The first option would be to enclose the stadium with a dome. Another option would be to rebuild the stadium to be “dome ready” with columns in both end zones, while the third would modify the venue as a multi-use facility more suitable for football “while improving its flexibility” for other events. read more here.
If the Bears dare to dream big of a new stadium in Arlington Heights, they can find inspiration at SoFi Stadium, the NFL’s new star attraction.
The league’s largest and most expensive stadium and the site of the Super Bowl, SoFi outside Los Angeles overwhelms fans with its sweeping curves and epic scale. The stadium and its development highlight certain parallels with the Bears’ proposal to purchase and redevelop Arlington International Racetrack. Both reflect a desire to leave century-old stadiums and home cities for vast sites that allow for planned enclaves of surrounding restaurants, hotels, offices, shops and homes. read more here.
Speaking at the end of the NFL owners’ meetings in March, Bears president George McCaskey again emphasized that the team’s purchase agreement on the property at the former Arlington International Racetrack in the northwestern suburb has not yet been finalized. it has closed and likely won’t close until later this year or early 2023. So the Bears aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We’re taking it one step at a time,” McCaskey said. “The goal is to close and go through the process to see if we can get to that (next) point.” read more here.
While the Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971, the team has discussed or proposed playing its games elsewhere for much of the last 50 years.
Wrigley Field served as the team’s original home when it moved to Chicago in 1921 and remained there until 1970. The team won nearly 70% of its home games during that time.
But the Bears were forced to find a new home after the American Football League merged with the National Football League and required stadiums to hold at least 50,000 fans. The team played its last game at Wrigley Field on December 13, 1970, beating the Packers 35-17. read more here.
Fans were exponentially more supportive than Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, with some even expressing draft-day-like optimism that better days are ahead. They openly dreamed of shorter concessions, easier parking, better tailgating opportunities, and a domed stadium to protect them from harsh winter winds.
“I’ve been to several NFL stadiums and Soldier Field doesn’t compete with any of them,” said Bears season-ticket holder Neal Shah of Wheaton. “On match days, the television crews show an aerial view of the stadium, which is beautiful, but the logistics are terrible.” read more here.