The writing has been on the wall for almost a year: the Bears are poised to leave Soldier Field. Although the team cannot exit its lease at the historic downtown stadium until 2026, last September it finalized a purchase agreement for the 326-acre Arlington International Racecourse, designating the suburban site for redevelopment. Now, the Bears have teased what awaits in Arlington Heights, revealing Tuesday plans for a new enclosed stadium, as well as an unprecedented multi-purpose entertainment district.
The Bears have yet to close on the purchase of the Arlington Heights property, currently owned by Churchill Downs Inc., but wrote in a public address Tuesday that plans are already in the works for “one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history.” Despite previous proposals by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to renovate Soldier Field as a means of keeping the Bears in their current home, the team also reiterated that it “will not be discussing or exploring any other alternative stadium sites or opportunities” while under contract to purchase Arlington Park.
Make no mistake, this is much more than a stadium project. Any development of Arlington Park will propose to include a multi-purpose entertainment, commercial/retail, and housing district that will provide considerable economic benefits to Cook County, the surrounding region and State of Illinois. The long-term project vision for the entire property is an ongoing work-in-progress, but could include: restaurants, office space, hotel, fitness center, new parks and open spaces, and other improvements for the community to enjoy.
The Bears remain committed to fulfilling their lease at Soldier Field, which was last renovated in 2002, the team announced. But its bigger-picture focus is clearly on their next home.
“While the prospect of a transit-oriented mixed-use and entertainment district anchored by a new enclosed stadium is exciting for the Bears and the entire state,” the team wrote, “there is much work to be done before we can close on the property, and then, whether we will develop it. We look forward to working with key partners and stakeholders across the Chicagoland community and State of Illinois in the months ahead.”