Bears release plans to build a ‘best-in-class’ dome

    Covered the 49ers, Raiders and Warriors for the San Jose Mercury News. She joined ESPN in 2017.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears released their conceptual plans Tuesday for the development of the 326-acre Arlington Park property, which includes the construction of a domed stadium.

In what the organization is calling “one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history,” the Bears envision building a multi-purpose entertainment district anchored by a “new, best-in-class enclosed stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff and Final Four.”

The Bears penned an open letter vowing to not seek public funding for “direct stadium structure construction” but expressed a desire to with various governmental agencies to secure additional funding and assistance for the remainder of the development, which would also include restaurants, office spaces, a hotel, fitness center, new parks and open spaces.

Last September, the Bears took a step toward leaving historic Soldier Field when they signed a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with Churchill Downs Inc. for the property in suburban Arlington Heights after the track, which has hosted thoroughbred racing since 1927, was put up for sale.

The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033, but the team can end the lease as soon as 2026 for an estimated $84 million. In January, team president and CEO Ted Phillips said the organization anticipates closing on the land at Arlington Park by early 2023. In its open letter, the team continued to express hypotheticals surrounding the project.

“If we do close on the property, it does not guarantee we will develop it,” the team’s statement read.

Still, the Bears say they are moving forward solely with the focus on developing a stadium on the Arlington Heights property and not considering the proposed renovations at their current home of the last 50 years. In July, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot laid out three options for construction of a dome over Soldier Field.

“While under contract with the seller of Arlington Park, we will not be discussing or exploring any other alternative stadium sites or opportunities, including renovations of Soldier Field,” the Bears said. “Much remains to be decided, but any decision will be made in the best interests of the Bears’ long-term future, our fans and the Chicagoland community.”

The Bears said the construction of the proposed project is projected to create more than 48,000 jobs, result in $9.4 billion in economic impact for Chicagoland. The completed project is expected to create more than 9,750 long-term jobs and result in $1.4 billion in annual economic impact for the area.

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