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Design & Development

Chicago Bears discuss plans for new stadium

Concept for Arlington Heights scheme

Featured image credit: Chicago Bears

Concept for Arlington Heights scheme

Featured image credit: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have stated they expect their proposed new stadium at Arlington Heights will feature a fixed, rather than retractable roof, and have maintained their “singular focus” is on this property with no appetite to engage on a potential redevelopment of Soldier Field.

The NFL American football franchise yesterday (Thursday) staged the first informational community meeting to discuss the potential purchase and possible development of Arlington Park. The Bears on Tuesday laid out plans for a domed stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district at the proposed site of Arlington Heights, broaching the subject of potentially seeking public funding for part of the project.

While further renderings of the vision behind the Bears’ proposed move to suburban Arlington Heights were not disclosed, team officials did comment on one key part of the stadium project. Bears president Ted Phillips said: “We’re not anticipating a retractable dome as the costs are prohibitive and the return (on investment) isn’t there.

“Often what we’ve seen with retractable domes is (that) the costs are prohibitive, the return isn’t there, there’s mechanical issues.”

In March, it was reported that Manica Architecture is working with the Bears on the new stadium project. Soldier Field is currently the oldest stadium in the NFL, having opened in 1924, while its 61,500-seat capacity for Bears games also makes it the smallest in the League.

The stadium underwent a $690m (£593.8m/€684.2m) renovation in 2002, with the Bears calling it the franchise’s regular home since 1971. The team’s lease deal is due to run through 2033, but the Bears could break the agreement for $84m as of 2026.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July announced proposals for a major renovation of Soldier Field. Lightfoot put forward three options, which have been developed by Landmark Development, its president Bob Dunn and a wider team of stadium engineers, designers and financial experts.

However, when the subject of Soldier Field was raised, Phillips said: “Right now, we don’t have a Plan B. Our singular focus is on this property.”

In September 2021, the Bears signed an agreement for the purpose of acquiring 326 acres of property in Arlington Heights to potentially relocate there. The team remains under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met in order to be in a position to close. 

The team says it is still working on stadium designs, and expects to unveil them at another community meeting around the staging of the 2023 Super Bowl in February. Bears chairman George McCaskey said the project could take more than 10 years to complete, with government funding needed to fully realise it.

‎The Bears this week said they will seek no public funding for direct stadium structure construction, but added that given the “broad, long-term public benefits” of the project, the team “looks forward to partnering with the various governmental bodies” to secure additional funding and assistance needed to support the feasibility of the remainder of the development.

“The Bears will seek no public funding for direct stadium structure construction,” McCaskey said yesterday. “However… we will need help.” McCaskey added that without infrastructure support and what he described as “property tax certainty,” the “project as described tonight will not be able to move forward.”