Chicago Bears announce plans for Arlington Heights Stadium

The Chicago Bears took the next step toward building a new stadium on Thursday, announcing an information community meeting to discuss the potential purchase and development of the Arlington International Racecourse.

In a statement, team officials said they were presenting conceptual plans for a transportation-oriented, mixed-use entertainment district underpinned by the stadium at Arlington Heights, one of the largest development projects in Illinois history.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in the gymnasium of Hersey High School at 1900 E. Thomas St. in Arlington Heights.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis as it is expected to be crowded.Parking lot opens at 5:00 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting is informational only. If the project goes forward, the team said any necessary public meetings will be held later in front of officials in Arlington Heights.

The announcement is in line with Mayor Tom Hayes’ statement that the village will likely begin holding meetings this fall to discuss the proposal.

Last year, the team and track owner Churchill Downs announced that the Bears had agreed to purchase the 326-acre racetrack for $197 million. The deal is expected to close by early 2023.

Any development must be approved by village officials. The mayor welcomed the team’s proposed move from Chicago’s Soldier Field, floated the idea of ​​limiting support for local taxpayers.

In response, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a proposal to build a dome over Soldier Field and expand capacity from the National Football League’s minimum of 61,500 to 70,000.

But the city, which is already running at a loss and is still paying off the stadium’s final renovation in 2003, has not disclosed how it will pay for such a costly project.

Lightfoot’s press office released a statement saying the Bears had made a “compelling case” to stay at Chicago’s “Tier 1” stadium.

“The city will continue to make the case with the Bears, the NFL and the public that rejuvenating Soldier Field makes the most economic sense,” said spokeswoman Kate Luffersey.

Arlington Heights Mayor Hayes called the meeting an encouraging sign.

“They are speeding up the project as they move forward to make this happen,” he said. “This is a very important and exciting part of the process as it is an opportunity to get initial feedback from the community.”

He stressed that this was not a village meeting and said he would not attend so as not to interfere.

A Bears spokesman declined to comment further on the meeting.

The meeting is expected to be less about stadium details and more about the property’s overall development as an entertainment district. This is an opportunity for the team to inform the public about the current state of the project and encourage feedback. The team plans to emphasize that the property purchase and subsequent development is not yet complete.

The Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971, but the team has discussed and suggested playing games elsewhere for the past 50 years.

Wrigley Field served as the team’s first home ground when it moved to Chicago in 1921, where it remained until 1970.

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However, after the American Football League merged with the National Football League, requiring stadiums to hold at least 50,000 fans, the Bears were forced to find a new home.

A recent poll commissioned by a self-proclaimed libertarian group found that the majority of Arlington Heights residents surveyed support the Bears moving from Soldier Field to their village, but to help the team do so. are opposed to tax subsidies for

A poll released last month found that 72% of respondents approved the Bears’ proposal to build a stadium at the now-closed Arlington International Racecourse, but 68% said they would use tax dollars to support the team. I objected.

The poll also found strong support for an ordinance banning Arlington Heights from using taxpayer money to build stadiums and other “corporate welfare” by a margin of 55% to 30%.

The survey, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity-Illinois, a group founded by conservative billionaire Koch brothers, surveyed 300 registered voters in the village.

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