New Bears chief states commitment to Arlington Park project

Chicago Bears president and CEO, Kevin Warren

Featured image credit: MaryKate Drews/Chicago Bears

Kevin Warren, the newly-appointed president and chief executive of the Chicago Bears, has said the NFL franchise’s sole focus for a new stadium is its proposed project at Arlington Park.

Warren’s appointment was announced earlier this month and while he will officially take up the position in April, he was introduced at a press conference yesterday (Tuesday). Warren has 21 years of experience as an NFL executive with the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, and most recently served as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.

However, it is his tenure with the Vikings that is being looked upon as key as the Bears look to drive forward with stadium plans. Warren was chief operating officer of the Vikings when the team opened U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.

He will now lead the Bears’ Arlington Park project and both Warren and chairman George McCaskey yesterday stated the franchise’s singular focus is on this site. In September 2021, the Bears signed an agreement for the purpose of acquiring 326 acres of property in Arlington Heights to potentially build a new stadium-anchored entertainment district there.

In September last year, the Bears laid out plans for a domed stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district at the site, broaching the subject of potentially seeking public funding for part of the project. McCaskey yesterday said the team is still working on closing the land acquisition deal in the first quarter of 2023.

Commenting on his prior experience, Warren said: “I think what makes U.S. Bank Stadium so special is that we spent almost a year planning, and planning is critical. That’s what I appreciate about the McCaskeys. They support the planning process. 

“I think that will be really critical from that standpoint and I know we’re focused on Arlington Park and that stadium development project, which I look forward to leaning in to. But I think the biggest thing we can do is make sure we’re methodical and detailed, and take the time to plan it properly.”

Regarding the Vikings project, he added: “I remember when we finished the stadium. I have all these boxes of binders and many people said: ‘you can get rid of those, you’ll never use those again’. I’m glad I saved them.”

Landmark Development, which is working with the City of Chicago on a proposed revamp of Soldier Field, this month released more details of its domed vision for the stadium as part of plans to keep the Bears at the venue, which is the oldest in the NFL.

In July last year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced proposals for a major renovation of Soldier Field, with three options presented in collaboration with Landmark Development.

Soldier Field opened in 1924 and its 61,500-seat capacity for Bears games makes it the smallest in the league. The stadium underwent a $690m (£557.5m/€636.9m) renovation in 2002 and the Bears’ lease deal is due to run through 2033. However, the team could break the agreement for $84m as of 2026.