Chicago Bears show renderings for closed stadium complex in Arlington Heights, but say they would expect public funding for surrounding entertainment district

Chicago Bears show renderings for closed stadium complex in Arlington Heights, but say they would expect public funding for surrounding entertainment district

For the first time, the Chicago Bears confirmed on Tuesday that the stadium the team plans to build in Arlington Heights will be bombed – but the team also called for taxpayer funding of part of the project and noted that the plan was still tentative.

The Bears released illustrations of the proposed project and a statement that was the most detailed yet on its proposal to purchase Arlington International Racetrack. He said the stadium would be “the best enclosed stadium in its class, providing Chicagoland with a worthy new home to host global events such as the Super Bowl, college football playoffs, and Final Four.”

The 326-acre development would also include restaurants, offices, a hotel, fitness center, new parks and open spaces.

The team estimated that construction of the proposed project would create 48,000 jobs, an economic impact of $9.4 billion for Chicagoland, and an annual economic impact of $1.4 billion. The team would not seek taxpayer assistance to build the stadium, but given the economic impact, would seek public funding for the remainder of the project.

“We remain under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met to be able to close,” the team wrote in the statement. “Whether we are closing on the property, it does not guarantee that we will develop it.

Artwork released Tuesday shows a map that indicates the stadium would be along Route 53 and Metra commuter lanes. A mixed-use neighborhood would be southeast of the stadium.

Two other illustrations show aerial images of the complex, which would include several buildings as well as the stadium.

The team has played at Chicago’s Soldier Field for half a century and pays around $6.5 million a year in rent. Its lease runs until 2033, but the team could break the lease for $84 million starting in 2026. In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered options to build a dome above Soldier Field for $2.2 billion, without specifying how he would be paid.

In September 2021, the Bears signed a preliminary agreement to buy the Arlington venue from track owner Churchill Downs Inc., which closed the racetrack last year.

“We remain under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met if we are to be able to close,” the Bears said, but did not specify those conditions.

“While we are under contract with the seller of Arlington Park, we will not discuss or explore other alternative stadium sites or other opportunities, including renovations to Soldier Field,” the team said.

“If the team proceeds with the purchase of the Arlington property and the Bears organization then elects to continue development of the property, the project will be one of the largest development projects in the history of the Arlington. ‘State of Illinois.’

The team projected construction would generate $3.9 billion in labor income for workers, with more than 9,750 long-term jobs and $601 million in annual worker income.

In terms of tax revenue, the Bears estimated the deal would generate $16 million a year for Arlington Heights, $9.8 million for Cook County and $51.3 million for the State of Illinois.

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The team did not provide details on how these projections were made. Economists have questioned these “promotional” studies, finding that consumer spending on sport often simply replaces other types of entertainment spending.

The study concluded that new sports facilities have a minimal effect on economic activity and employment, but did not address the impact of a mixed-use neighborhood like what the Bears are proposing.

“We are taking serious steps to assess the opportunity presented to us,” the team said. “The Bears remain committed to Soldier Field and will honor the terms of its lease … there’s a lot of work to do before we can close the property, and then if we’re going to develop it.

“We look forward to working with key partners and stakeholders in the Chicagoland community and the State of Illinois in the months ahead.”

The Bears will hold a community meeting Thursday night at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights to discuss the plan.

Check back for updates.

Chicago Tribune’s AD Quig contributed.

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