Bears to unveil plans for Arlington Heights stadium site

The Bears will unveil the concept plan for their potential new home in Arlington Heights on September 8.

The meeting, which will take place at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, will detail a statement from Bears describing it as “one of the largest developments in Illinois history.” The stadium grounds will feature a “transit-oriented mixed-use entertainment area”. Details about the stadium design will not be introduced at the meeting.

The Bears hosted the former Arlington Racetrack for which they signed a $197.2 million purchase last year. President/CEO Ted Phillips said in January that he didn’t expect the land to be completed until the end of the year, and possibly early 2023.

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

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said neither he nor members of the Arlington Heights Village Council will participate in community meetings aimed at addressing the concerns and advice of suburban residents.

But Hayes said he expected the village to have more substantive discussions on their negotiations with the team later this month.

“We want to get this ball rolling as soon as possible,” Hayes said.

The next village committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

While their current home at Soldier Field is historic, its status is undermined by its inadequacies compared to the state-of-the-art stadiums around the NFL. Soldier Field opened in 1924 and received National Historic Landmark status in 1984, before losing it in 2006 due to renovations that left it looking mismatched, as if a spaceship had landed on top of the iconic pillar.

Nearly every stadium in the league goes far beyond the comfort and amenities of Soldier Field, and end-of-season games at the lake can be pretty chilly. It is widely believed that any new stadium will be indoors.

There are also issues with the Bears renting the stadium from the Chicago Park District rather than owning its own building. This arrangement severely limited their use of the facility and cut into revenue.

Soldier Field also has the smallest capacity in the NFL at about 62,000. There are 13 stadiums that can accommodate more than 70,000 people, most of which are located in smaller markets than the Chicago area.

Building the stadium in Arlington Heights would immediately enable the area to host the Super Bowl (currently the venue is scheduled to play through 2025). The league has rewarded every team that does so with the Super Bowl, even if it’s not part of the regular rotation. The Vikings’ Bank of America Stadium opened in 2016 and hosted the Super Bowl in 2018.

Mitchell Armentrout contributed to this story.

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