Chicago Bears Unveil Plans for New Stadium, Entertainment District

by Nick Geddes

The Chicago Bears released conceptual plans Tuesday for a new domed stadium as part of the development of the 326-acre Arlington Park property.

They call it “one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history,” — the Bears’ plan to build a multi-purpose entertainment district. The district will be anchored by a “new, best-in-class enclosed stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff and Final Four,” per ESPN.

The Bears announced they would not seek public funding to build the new stadium. They, however, expressed a desire with multiple governmental agencies to secure additional funding for the remainder of the development. The rest of the development will also include restaurants, office spaces, a hotel, a fitness center, new parks and open spaces. Construction of the project estimates to create more than 48,000 jobs and result in $9.8 billion of economic impact for Chicagoland.

The Bears currently call Soldier Field home, as they have since 1971. It underwent renovations in 2002 which lowered the seating capacity in the process. The stadium now has the smallest capacity of any stadium in the NFL at 61,500. The Bears’ lease runs through 2033, though they can break the lease as soon as 2026 for around $84 million.

Chicago Bears Sign Purchase and Sale Agreement to Leave Soldier Field

A new stadium has been on the books, with the Bears striking a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement last September with Churchill Downs Inc. Team president and CEO Ted Phillips said in January that they hope to close on the land by early 2023.

“If we do close on the property, it does not guarantee we will develop it,” the Bears said in a statement.

Last month, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled plans to make billion-dollar renovations to Soldier Field. Lightfoot has shown resistance to the Bears’ plan to build a new stadium 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.

“As a season ticket holder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team,” Lightfoot said last September. “And like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”

The Bears, meanwhile, said they will not explore future renovations to Soldier Field while under contract with the seller of Arlington Park.

“While under contract with the seller of Arlington Park,” the Bears said, “we will not be discussing or exploring any other alternative stadium sites or opportunities, including renovations of Soldier Field.”