ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois – While the Chicago Bears are still in the early stages of development, they are moving forward with their plan to eventually leave Soldier Field and build a new stadium in the northwest suburbs of Chicago on the 326-acre Arlington Park site.
“Right now, we don’t have a Plan B,” Ted Phillips, president and CEO of Beers, said Thursday. “Our unique focus is on this characteristic.”
The Bears hosted a two-hour community meeting for residents of the Arlington Heights area Thursday to discuss their conceptual plans to develop the former site of Arlington International Racecourse, which closed last year after hosting Thoroughbred races for 94 years. The team has been contracting the property since September 2021, when it signed a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement.
A potential stadium has not yet been designed, according to Phillips, but it will be a “enclosed” structure with an expected capacity to exceed Soldier Field – just under 61,500 seats.
“We’re not expecting a retractable dome,” Phillips said. “Often what we’ve seen with retractable domes is that. [that] The costs are high, the return is not there, and there are mechanical issues.”
Phillips added, “I hope it can attract major events like the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff, concerts, and the Final Four. We don’t have a facility like that right now.”
Phillips was met with applause when he stated that the team would not discuss any alternative stadium construction sites, and would not consider renovating Soldier Field.
Bears Chairman George McCaskey told a half-full gym at John Hersey High School that the entire project could take more than 10 years to complete and that the new stadium would make up less than half of the development, which will include restaurant, retail, office space, housing, a hotel and a fitness center. New gardens, ponds and open areas.
“My family and I are not real estate developers,” McCasci said. “We are not financiers. We are fortunate to own a beloved football team that is an important asset to the community. We take this responsibility very seriously. It is the passion of our lives. We realize what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
McCaskey said the Bears family “would not seek public funding to build the direct stadium structure” but would need help in order to complete the rest of the multi-billion dollar project. Necessary infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, is what the bears will need to help taxpayers with or “will not be able to move forward” with the project, according to McAskie.
In answering questions from the audience, Phillips made it clear that no buildings on the Arlington Park site would be constructed with public funds.
“We are not asking for a property tax hike in Arlington Heights to fund construction of the stadium,” McCaskey said. “It is not our part to say that property taxes for Arlington Heights residents will not go up, but it may be for reasons unrelated to this building.”
McCaskey said the Bears family was not actively looking for a property to develop when Arlington Park became available. Churchill Downs, which owns the land, reached out to the Bears family to gauge the team’s interest. McAskie said the organization, led by his grandfather George Hallas, had previously attempted to purchase the land in the 1970s.
Earlier this week, Beers wrote an open letter discussing some of the commitments they will have to fulfill in order to develop the drug, which the organization hopes to close in early 2023.