The Bears announced Friday that they are exploring additional locations around the greater Chicago area to build their new NFL stadium instead of keeping Arlington Heights as the “singular focus.”
Kevin Warren, the Bears president, held a meeting with Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli to discuss how the suburban city would be a good site for the franchise’s new venue based on “business needs” and “available properties,” Kevin Schmit of The Daily Herald reported Friday. The meeting comes after the franchise recently purchased the 326-acre racetrack at Arlington Park for $197.2 million in February.
Despite crews preparing to start demolition at Arlington Park, the Bears released a statement, explaining that the plan to build their stadium in Arlington Heights is “at risk.”
“The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state,” Bears senior vice president of marketing and communications Scott Hagel said in a statement. “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.”
The Daily Herald reports that Arlington Heights officials are still waiting for the Bears to share more precise “plans outlining the organization’s vision of a potential $5 billion redevelopment” for the new dome-based stadium. Arlington Heights mayor Tom Hayes told the Herald that the Bears “should be looking at all their options.”
However, even with the franchise keeping its options open, Hayes feels “very encouraged” that Arlington Park will be the perfect location for the Bears’ new facility.
“We’ve gotten pretty far down the road in terms of their redevelopment of that site,” Hayes said. “I understand there’s challenges ahead that still have to be overcome. But I continue to think that the Arlington Park property is a very unique property that would be in the best interest of the Bears for their football stadium for the next 50 years or more.”
The Bears currently play at Soldier Field in Chicago, but Soldier Field has not been remodeled since 2002 and holds the smallest capacity among stadiums in the NFL, prompting the franchise to explore options out of the downtown area for a new home venue.