Bears may build domed stadium in Arlington Heights – Chicago Tribune

Bears may build domed stadium in Arlington Heights - Chicago Tribune

For the first time, the Chicago Bears confirmed Tuesday that the stadium the team is considering building in Arlington Heights would be domed — but the team also called for taxpayer funding for part of the project, and noted that the plan is still tentative

The Bears’ published illustrations of the proposed project, and a statement that was the most detailed yet in their proposal to buy Arlington International Racecourse. It said the stadium will be “a best-in-class indoor stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoffs and Final Four.”

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

The team estimated that construction of the proposed project would create 48,000 jobs, a $9.4 billion economic impact for Chicagoland, and $1.4 billion in annual economic impact. The team would not seek taxpayer help to build the stadium, but based on the economic impact, would seek public funding for the rest of the project.

“We remain under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met to be in a position to close,” the team wrote in the statement. “If we do close on the property, it doesn’t guarantee we’ll develop it.”

The illustrations released Tuesday show a map that indicates the stadium would be along Route 53 and the Metra commuter tracks. A mixed-use district would be southeast of the stadium.

Two other illustrations show aerial views of the complex, which would include several buildings along with the stadium.

The team has played at Soldier Field in Chicago for half a century, and pays about $6.5 million a year in rent. Its lease will run through 2033, but the team was able to break the lease for $84 million as of 2026. In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed options to build a dome over Soldier Field for $2.2 billion, without specifying how it would be paid for.

In September 2021, the Bears signed a preliminary agreement to purchase the Arlington site 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 in a position to close,” the Bears stated, but did not specify those conditions.

“While under contract with the seller of Arlington Park, we will not discuss or explore other alternative stadiums or other opportunities, including renovations of Soldier Field,” the team stated.

“If the team proceeds with the purchase of the Arlington property, and if the Bears organization then chooses to proceed with the development of the property, the project will be one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history.”

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

In terms of tax revenue, the Bears estimated the deal would generate $16 million annually 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 such projections were made. Economists have questioned such “promotional” studiesfinding that consumer spending on sports often simply substitutes for other types of entertainment spending.

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

“We are taking serious steps to evaluate the opportunity presented to us,” the team said. “The Bears remain committed to Soldier Field and will honor the terms of its lease…there is a lot of work to be done before we can close on the property, and then will we develop it.

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

The Bruins will hold a community meeting Thursday night at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights to talk about the plan.

Check back for updates.

Chicago Tribune’s AD Quig contributed.

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