ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (AP)The Chicago Bears on Wednesday bought the property that they’ve been sizing up for a new enclosed stadium in suburban Arlington Heights.
The Bears announced that they paid $197.2 million for the 326-acre plot.
The team cautioned, however, that the purchase doesn’t mean plans for a new stadium and an entertainment district will come to fruition.
”There is still a tremendous amount of due diligence work to be done to determine if constructing an enclosed state-of-the-art stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district is feasible,” the Bears said in a statement.
Soldier Field on Chicago’s lakefront has been the Bears’ home since 1971. The team played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970, and if a new stadium is constructed, the franchise would have its name on the mortgage for the first time since arriving in Chicago.
Economic analysts have said building a Bears entertainment district would create more than 48,000 jobs and generate $9.4 billion for the local economy.
”The Bears will continue to work closely alongside the Village of Arlington Heights, surrounding municipalities and their residents to solicit extensive feedback on how we can best benefit local communities and Bears fans across Illinois,” the statement said. ”This planning will include a robust diversity, equity and inclusion program that prioritizes local hiring throughout every stage of the development.”
The Bears envision restaurants, retail and more on the site of the shuttered Arlington International Racecourse some 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field – all for about $5 billion, with some taxpayer help.
The Bears plan to pay for their stadium, but want taxpayer dollars to cover infrastructure costs such as roads and sewers.
The city of Chicago proposed last summer enclosing Soldier Field and increasing its capacity from a league-low 61,500. But the Bears have insisted the only possibilities they were considering were for the Arlington Heights site.
It will be up to new president and CEO Kevin Warren to help the Bears’ vision for a new home become a reality. He was hired last month after spending three years as commissioner of the Big Ten.
Warren, who’s replacing the retiring Ted Phillips, worked in the NFL for more than two decades. He was part of Minnesota’s front office from 2005-19, ascending to chief operating officer in 2015, and played a big role in the Vikings’ construction of U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Bears see that stadium, which opened in 2016, as a model for their potential new home, with its translucent roof and massive glass panels letting in enough light and air to make fans feel as if they’re outdoors.
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