Bears finalize purchase of Arlington Park property: Where this leaves Chicago’s future stadium plans

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Bears finalize purchase of Arlington Park property: Where this leaves Chicago’s future stadium plans

By Adam Jahns, Jon Greenberg and Kevin Fishbain

The Chicago Bears finalized the purchase of Arlington Park property, the team announced Wednesday in an open letter. Here’s what you need to know:

  • By finalizing the purchase, there is no guarantee that the land will be developed, according to the Bears.
  • In September 2021, the Bears signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property in suburban Arlington Heights, Ill. The 326-acre property was bought for $197.2 million.
  • The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971.

How we got here

In 1971, the Bears moved from Wrigley Field to Soldier Field to meet the NFL’s requirements for seating capacity. Now, Soldier Field has the smallest capacity in the league (61,500).

The Bears have watched as team after team has built immaculate stadiums, and those franchises don’t have to share revenue as a tenant in their building. As much as the McCaskeys treasure the tradition of Soldier Field, the NFL is a business, and the Bears are lagging behind the rest of the league when it comes to their stadium and making money off it. This has been inevitable. — Fishbain

More work left to do

As the Bears said in their open letter, it’s “an important next step.” But there is still a lot of work to do. The Bears’ letter stressed that point while pitching the project as an opportunity for the region to host “world-class entertainment and sporting events on an unprecedented scale.” The job, though, now belongs to new team president and chief executive officer Kevin Warren — and the Bears are extremely excited about that. Warren’s resume includes the construction of the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It’s one of the best stadiums in the NFL. “When you land it like we did in Minnesota, you can feel it — feel it every way,” Warren said last month. — Jahns

Does it make sense financially?

If building an NFL stadium is like running a marathon, the Bears just bought their running shoes. Next up? The expensive and difficult parts. Heck, the Bears might not even run this race.

By closing on their nearly $200 million deal to buy the 326-acre Arlington Park racetrack property, the Bears now have to move on to trying to finance the project, which is expected to cost billions of dollars. The Bears are touting this as one of the “largest mega-projects in Midwest history.” But can they find the money to get it done?

The organization is, of course, asking for public funding for the project. Getting the funding sorted out is the next step.

“If we construct a state-of-the-art stadium, we will not seek taxpayer funds locally or otherwise for the structure,” the Bears wrote in their statement. “If we proceed, however, this project would require assistance to ensure feasibility, including our securing property tax certainty and support for infrastructure commensurate with the public benefits the project will yield to the region.” — Greenberg

What they’re saying

“Last fall, we released an open letter confirming the team had reached an agreement for the purpose of acquiring 326 acres of property in Arlington Heights to secure the potential of beginning a new and exciting chapter for the Bears, our fans, the Chicagoland community, and the State of Illinois,” the letter said. “This week, we took another step toward realizing that vision by closing on the Arlington Park property.”

“There is still a tremendous amount of due diligence work to be done to determine if constructing an enclosed state-of-the-art stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district is feasible.”

Required reading

(Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski / AP Photo)