Bears say proposed Arlington Heights stadium no longer team’s ‘singular focus’

EditorLast Update :
Bears say proposed Arlington Heights stadium no longer team’s ‘singular focus’

The Chicago Bears’ proposed stadium plans in Arlington Heights, Ill., are “at risk” due to a tax issue and are no longer the team’s “singular focus,” the Bears said in a statement Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Bears, who have played at Soldier Field since 1971, finalized the purchase of the Arlington Park site in the suburbs northwest of Chicago in February.
  • The team has been focused on the Arlington Park site and plans for its stadium but has not committed to developing the land for a stadium.
  • Mayor Scott Wehrli of Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago, reached out to the Bears to highlight Naperville as a “thriving community with multiple opportunities for business investment,” a spokesperson for Wehrli confirmed to The Athletic on Friday.
  • Bears president Kevin Warren also had a call with Wehrli on Friday, the team confirmed.

What they’re saying

The Bears said in the statement that their “goal of building the largest single development project in Illinois history led by billions of dollars in private capital investment, and the jobs and economic benefits generated, is at risk in Arlington Heights.”

The team continued: “The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state. However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state.

“We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus. It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois.”


In September 2021, the Bears signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property in suburban Arlington Heights. The 326-acre property was bought for $197.2 million.

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

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What to make of the situation

Given that the Bears own the Arlington Park racetrack property and have already started demolishing it, this Friday news dump smells like posturing if not just B.S.

But on the other hand, it’s not like public officials in the village of Arlington Heights — not to mention the other governmental bodies involved — have backed up a truck full of cash and promises at Halas Hall.

In today’s more educated media ecosystem, anyone with a lick of sense knows that the economic promises that come with new sports stadiums are loaded with more false promises than a 12-year-old trying to beg his parents for a PS5. With that in mind, there is a lot to work through in terms of tax and infrastructure issues to get a multi-billion stadium and “entertainment district” built in Illinois.

The Bears hired Warren from the Big Ten to lead their stadium search and this is probably a good sign that he’s working on it.

This story reminds me a bit of 2013, when the Cubs were linked to the village of Rosemont as they were fighting with the owners of the nearby rooftop clubs and also trying to squeeze the city for help in renovating Wrigley Field. Rosemont, for the uninformed, is a small village near O’Hare Airport with hotels, convention centers and plenty of entertainment and dining options. But it was simply a leverage play.

While Wrigley Field has the perfect location for an urban ballpark and is a money-printing machine, making a move highly unlikely, the city-owned Soldier Field is basically the opposite situation for the Bears, which is why they’re focused on moving to the suburbs, where they can spread out in a modern oasis of football and commerce.

Naperville, honestly, isn’t a bad option. It’s the fourth-biggest city, in terms of population, in Illinois and while I still have nightmares about driving there to cover Chicago Fire games in 2003 when they played at North Central College. It’s no worse than Arlington Heights for a lot of Bears fans.

In any event, the Chicago Bears want to move out of Chicago and they want a lot of help to do so. So this isn’t over. If you’re a suburban mayor looking to get your name in The Athletic, feel free to shoot me a news release. — Greenberg

Required reading

(Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski / AP)