The Bears could be leaving Soldier Field, and if they do, they have plans in place for a new stadium in the suburbs. Should they go to Arlington Heights, they’d build their campus on a former Arlington Park racetrack.
A meeting is set for Thursday in which officials will present conceptual plans for the stadium. This isn’t the first time the Bears have threatened to leave Soldier Field. The saga actually dates back to the ’70s when the team first made its interest in moving to Arlington Heights well known.
Ahead of the meeting and a subsequent announcement, the team has released renderings for the new campus design. Said to cover 326 acres, the Arlington Heights stadium and surrounding campus will be a new hub for entertainment, which would include commercial retail sites, multi-purpose entertainment ventures, office space, a hotel, park areas, and a fitness center along with a housing district.
To put this plan in motion, they will rely on government funding. Should the project move forward, it could potentially create more than 48,000 jobs in the area and could have a $9.4 billion economic impact.
This all hinges on two factors: the team closing on the property and the team’s decision to develop it. The Bears plan to honor the terms of its lease at Soldier Field but are hoping to pursue the new opportunity. They’re tied to the Soldier Field lease until 2033 but could potentially break the lease as soon as 2026 by paying an $84 million penalty to the city.
As for why they want to move? Soldier Field is known as the smallest capacity stadium in the NFL, which makes moving locations appealing. The Bears are also tenants of the Park District, which means they have to pay rent and split revenue streams.
As far as city officials go, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she hopes the Bears will stay at Soldier Field. A recent proposition to add a dome to Soldier Field and revamp Museum Campus was brought up in an attempt to persuade the Bears to stay put. If the Bears are to move out of the city, plans are up in the air as to what Soldier Field will become. Would a new team come in? Could it be turned into a concert venue?
The team announced in 2021 that they signed a purchase agreement with the old race track, but nothing has officially moved forward as of yet.
For now, things are still up in the air.
Address: 2200 Euclid Ave, Arlington Heights, IL 60005
[Featured photo via: Hart Howerton / Chicago Bears]