CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears plan to build an indoor suburban stadium that could host Super Bowls, College Football Playoff games and Final Fours.
The Bears on Tuesday released concept images of the proposed stadium and entertainment complex that would be built on the site of a former racetrack in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The Bears said the project could include restaurants, office space, a hotel, gym, new parks and open spaces as well as “other improvements for the community to enjoy.”
“We envision a multi-use entertainment district anchored by a new, best-in-class indoor stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff and the Final Four,” the team said in a statement.
The Bears have said they will not seek public funding for the stadium if the sale of the 326-acre property goes through and they decide to move there. But they would ask taxpayers for help with the rest of the project.
The agency signed a purchase agreement last year for the tract of land located about 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field. Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips, who announced last week that he will retire after this season, said a deal likely won’t close until early 2023.
The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field, where the team has played since 1971, runs through 2033.
In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed three options for renovating the stadium. One included its enclosure and the other called for the reconstruction of both end zones with columns that could support a dome. A third option was to modify it to be a multi-purpose facility better suited to football.
The Bears said Tuesday they will not consider renovating Soldier Field or explore other potential stadium sites while they are under contract for the Arlington Heights property.
“Much remains to be decided, but any decision will be made in the best interest of the long-term future of the Bears, our fans and the Chicagoland community,” the team said.
Of the three images released Tuesday, one is a map showing the stadium near freeway and commuter rail lines and the mixed-use area southeast of the stadium. Two other aerial views show the stadium and several other buildings and green spaces.
The Bears did not say what the seating capacity of a new stadium would be, nor the potential cost to build the stadium or develop the rest of the property. They said the construction will create more than 48,000 jobs, as well as $9.4 billion in economic impact for the region and provide $3.9 billion in income to workers.
The Bears estimate the completed project will add 9,750 long-term jobs, $1.4 billion in annual economic impact and $601 million annually in worker income.
The Bears also said the project would generate $16 million in annual tax revenue, in addition to property taxes for Arlington Heights, $9.8 million for Cook County and $51.3 million for the State of Illinois — calling it the potential development “one of the largest development projects in the history of the state of Illinois.”
Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District and underwent a $690 million makeover in 2002 that forced the team to play home games at the University of Illinois and ultimately led to the loss of the stadium’s National Historic Landmark designation.
The interior was demolished, replaced by a glass-dominated, flying saucer-like structure, cantilevered over the famous Greek and Romanesque colonnades. The clash of styles drew criticism, and the renovation reduced seating for Bears games to 61,500, the lowest in the NFL.
The lakeside location and harsh weather make it difficult to maintain the playing surface, and the often unstable condition has also been a sore point for Bears players and coaches, as well as other teams.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL