The Chicago Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971.
However, ongoing discussions about the future viability of the stadium have escalated to new heights recently. The stadium holds only 61,500 fans, which is the smallest capacity of any active stadium in the NFL. Also the oldest active NFL stadium, there is certainly a compelling case for change.
In September of 2021, the Bears signed a purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, IL. This proposed location for a new stadium would take the Bears completely out of the Chicago city limits.
Understandably, the proposal has received mixed feedback, which paved the way for some outside developers to suggest some creative ways to transform Soldier Field into a true long-term fit for the Bears.
Renovating Soldier Field
As the Bears approach making their final decision about leaving Soldier Field, the City of Chicago and Landmark Renovations have been compiling one last "Hail Mary" to keep the Bears in the city.
Image source: Front Office Sports
Landmark Development recently released a video proposal to renovate Soldier Field to include a dome and entertainment district. The dome would require rebuilding of the end zones with columns engineered to support the structure.
The plans include a proposed transit hub above Metra storage tracks and a rail yard across the street from the stadium. Seating would increase from 61,500 seats to 70,000 seats, including numerous fan activation areas and a youth play zone.
Image source: Connect CRE
The video also proposes expanding the field's food and beverage amenities from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet.
The proposal would cost somewhere around $2 billion, and many observers view the proposal as unlikely to come to fruition.
Arlington Heights International Racecourse
So what happens if the Bears do decide to leave Chicago?
The first step in moving the Bears to Arlington Heights is closing on the $197.2 million property agreement of the 326-acre property that formerly housed Arlington Park Racecourse. The finalization comes a year and a half after the Bears first entered into a purchase agreement of the former horse track.
Image source: The Illinoize
The long-term plans for the Chicago Bears stadium complex will be fluid, but for now, the team envisions developing restaurants, hotels, parks, gyms, office space, and even residential areas in addition to a new stadium.
Of course, the new home stadium for the Bears will garner the most attention, with the team revealing that they are planning an enclosed stadium to protect fans and the team from the outside elements.
Image source: Patch
The entire project could take up to 10 years to complete, including the stadium and surrounding entertainment district. The Chicago Bears have seemed to make it clear that they are not engaged in any other discussions for stadiums, including renovations to Soldier Field.
Chicago Bears or Arlington Bears
While the Bears will likely only host one Super Bowl in their new stadium, due in part to the NFL wanting the big game in warmer-weather cities, the team is hopeful they can lure other big-ticket items like the College Football Playoffs and the NCAA Final Four.
The Bears are bound by contract to negotiate only with Arlington Park, while the Soldier Field proposal has hurdles of its own as well. While the proposal would add all sorts of amenities to the area, the stadium is owned by the city. The Bears currently pay nearly $6.5 million a year under the current Soldier Field lease, while in Arlington Heights, the Bears would own the stadium.
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