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The Chicago Bears’ Pursuit of a New Arlington Heights Stadium – NBC Chicago

The Chicago Bears play in one of the NFL’s smallest stadiums and have been seeking changes to the iconic venue for years, but it is their pursuit of a new stadium project in suburban Arlington Heights that has captured the attention of fans around the country.

In Sept. 2021, the Bears reached an agreement to purchase the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse, and the team has hired architects to help design a stadium that could house the team in the future.

Meanwhile, the city of Chicago has said that it intends to fight to keep the Bears at Soldier Field, going so far as to propose an ambitious new plan for redeveloping the lakefront property that currently houses the team.

Here is a timeline of events as the saga has unfolded.

Feb 23, 2021: Owners of Arlington International Racecourse Announce Intent to Sell Property

Churchill Downs Inc. announced that they intended to sell the 326-acre property that housed the racetrack in early 2021, paving the way for bids to potentially redevelop the site.

The track, which opened in 1927, had housed horse racing for nearly a century, but is now just the latest site to shut down, joining the former Balmoral Park race track.

June 17, 2021: Bears Submit Bid to Purchase Arlington International Racecourse

As Arlington Heights officials and Churchill Downs began to solicit bids for the property, the Bears officially jumped into the fray, submitting a bid to purchase the site for the purposes of potentially building a new suburban stadium.

“It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future,” CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement. “If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”

Sept. 28, 2021: Bears Reach Purchase Agreement for Arlington International Racecourse

Despite having a lease at Soldier Field that currently runs through 2033, the Bears reached an agreement with Churchill Downs to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse site in the fall of 2021.

The deal is still in the process of being worked out, but the agreement represented a significant step in the process of the team potentially leaving Chicago.

october 2021: Bears Begin Zoning Talks for Stadium Project

According to the Daily Herald, the Bears began talks on local zoning and permit approvals with Arlington Heights officials in Oct. 2021

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker called news that the Chicago Bears could potentially leave the city for Arlington Heights “disappointing.” NBC 5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern reports.

Jan 10, 2022: Bears Say Sale is on Track, Could Close by Early 2023

Phillips held a press conference in early 2022 to announce the firings of former head coach Matt Nagy and former GM Ryan Pace, but also updated the public on the team’s negotiations to buy the former Arlington racecourse site.

“The closing on the land is probably going to take the rest of the year, maybe into the first quarter of 2023,” he said. “And at that point in time, we will decide whether it’s financially feasible to try to develop it further.”

March 17, 2022: Bears Hire Architectural Firm to Help Design Potential New Stadium

According to the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, the Bears hired Manica Architecture to draw up plans for a new stadium at the Arlington Heights site.

The Bears’ offensive line might be a problem. Like a BIG problem. They suffer an injury to Dakota Dozier, rookie Braxton Jones could be a starter before he’s ready, Teven Jenkins is playing with the 2nd string, and guys could be playing outta position. Prayers up to Justin Fields. Ken Davis, Alex Shapiro, and Josh Schrock discuss the many issues…

July 6, 2022: City of Chicago Proposes New Dome Over Soldier Field, Other Lakeshore Improvements

As part of the city’s pitch to keep the Bears at Soldier Field, officials revealed an extensive redevelopment plan for the area around Soldier Field.

Most notably, that proposal included the idea of ​​building a dome over the stadium, along with removing Burnham Harbor and replacing it with parking “floating pavilions.”

The Northerly Island concert venue would also be moved to Soldier Field’s north lawn, and other projects, including a new hotel and improved public transit access, were revealed.

Finally, giving the Bears the opportunity to possibly sell naming rights to the stadium was also floated.

July 8, 2022: Bears Reject Idea of ​​Soldier Field Renovations

In short order, the Bears dismissed the project, saying that the only project the team would pursue was the “new stadium development” in Arlington Heights.

In a statement to the Daily Herald, a team spokesman announced that the Bears’ purchase agreement precludes them from pursuing alternate sites, and that does include any changes to Soldier Field.

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