CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears are set to unveil conceptual plans for a suburban stadium and entertainment complex next week, the next step as they mull a move from their longtime home, Soldier Field.
The Bears announced Thursday they will hold a community meeting Sept. 8 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, to discuss the potential purchase and development of a new stadium and entertainment complex on the site of a former horse racing track. The organization signed a purchase agreement last year for the 326-acre tract of land in the town, about 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field.
The Bears said the session is “informational only and should not be confused with an official public meeting” hosted by Arlington Heights. They said public meetings would be scheduled later “if the project were to move forward.”
Team president Ted Phillips has said a deal likely wouldn’t close until early 2023, at which point the team would decide whether it’s “financially feasible to try to develop it further.”
A new stadium could put the Bears in line to host a Super Bowl and, if a roof is built, an NCAA Final Four.
The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field — their home since 1971 — runs through 2033. The stadium owned by the Chicago Park District underwent a $690 million transformation in 2002 that forced the team to play home games at the University of Illinois in Champaign and ultimately led to the loss of its National Historic Landmark designation.
The interior was demolished, replaced by a flying saucer-like, glass-dominated structure cantilevered over the famous Greek and Romanesque colonnades. The clash of styles drew widespread criticism, and the renovation reduced seating for Bears games to 61,500, lowest in the NFL.
The choppy condition of the surface at the stadium has also been a sore spot for players and coaches on the Bears as well as other teams. The lakefront location and harsh weather make maintaining the surface difficult for the Park District.
In July, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot presented three options for renovating Soldier Field. But the Bears said they were not interested.
Lightfoot proposed fully enclosing the stadium by rebuilding both end zones with columns that can support a dome; rebuilding both end zones with columns to make the stadium dome-ready; or modifying Soldier Field to be a multi-purpose stadium better suited for soccer.