What Bears are planning for a ‘magical’ $5 billion makeover at Arlington Park

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As the Bears kick off the season at noon Sunday at Soldier Field — the team’s home for more than half a century — it could be another decade before their first snap at Arlington Park, amid planning , regulatory approvals and financing needed to make the ambitious $5 billion project a reality.

And while there is a lot of interest in the team’s envisioned stadium in the suburbs, senior team officials have so far provided few details about it:

• There will be more seats than the league’s lowest 61,500 seats at Soldier Field.

• It will be surrounded by a dome large enough to accommodate the Super Bowl, college football playoffs and college basketball Final Four.

• And there will be more room for parking and tailgating – a statement that drew applause from a generally friendly crowd, some wearing Bears outfits, at the team’s community meeting last Thursday at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.


An artist’s rendering shows the view from the proposed Bears stadium in Arlington Park, looking east over a green, mixed-use central neighborhood, with downtown Chicago in the distance.
– Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

“We don’t have a facility like that now,” CEO Ted Phillips told the crowd of hundreds in the school gymnasium. “It will be designed to provide our fans with a first-class experience.”


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Phillips was interrupted by applause a few times during his opening remarks.

“I’ve never had so much applause in my life. I think I’ll stop there,” joked the Bears manager.

But Phillips, accompanied by franchise chairman George McCaskey and their team of experts, spent the next two hours outlining almost everything else about the club’s long-term vision for the sprawling 326-acre site they have. under contract with Churchill Downs Inc.

While the stadium and parking lots would be on a 120-acre northwest portion of the site near Route 53 and the Northwest Freeway, an adjacent transit-oriented mixed-use neighborhood would be built on the 206 acres to the south and east, near Euclid and Wilke roads and to the existing Arlington Park Metra station. This could include restaurants, stores, offices, a hotel, performance hall, fitness center, townhouses and multi-family dwellings, parks and open spaces.

And it’s this part of the redevelopment that the Bears brass are touting to the public and their elected officials in hopes of securing public funding.

About the request


This sketch shows one of two proposed pedestrian bridges that would lead to a new Bears stadium in Arlington Park.  The site could also include a nearby central lawn as well as a sportsbook, hall of fame and team store.

This sketch shows one of two proposed pedestrian bridges that would lead to a new Bears stadium in Arlington Park. The site could also include a nearby central lawn as well as a sportsbook, hall of fame and team store.
– Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

McCaskey and Phillips reiterated that the cost of building the stadium would be privately funded but, in McCaskey’s words, they “will need help” with the rest of the project.

“The vast majority of stadiums built over the past 20 to 25 years that house NFL teams have been public-private partnerships,” McCaskey said. “This particular project is unlike any of the single stadium projects, in that the stadium anchors, the transit-oriented district and the transit-oriented district, improve the use of the stadium . They are intertwined. It would be a great advantage for the village, the region and the state.”

Phillips added that the team’s request for public money would be for site infrastructure costs – roads, sewers, storm water and utilities – and not for the construction of the stadium or buildings as part of the development at mixed use. He said those exact costs are still unknown.

“We’re not trying to play games to get buildings built with public funds,” he said.

Asked by an audience member if tax-raise financing — property taxes above a certain level going into development rather than local governments — could be part of the equation, Phillips said. said the team was still in the preliminary stages of reviewing all possible funding. options.

McCaskey added that nothing about the Bears’ draft hinges on raising local property taxes, though he acknowledged village officials could raise them for other reasons.

What’s in the plans


The Bears' concept site plan for the redevelopment of the 326-acre Arlington Park property shows a stadium neighborhood to the northwest and a mixed-use neighborhood to the southeast.

The Bears’ concept site plan for the redevelopment of the 326-acre Arlington Park property shows a stadium neighborhood to the northwest and a mixed-use neighborhood to the southeast.
– Courtesy of the Chicago Bears

Architects and designers from Hart Howerton, the lead planning agency the Bears have retained, described their vision for the closed racetrack site as a “gateway to Chicagoland”, with the stadium opening onto a lawn central to the east and accessible by two pedestrian bridges. Artist renderings show the Chicago skyline in the distance.

On either side of the center green, there could be a hotel, civic/entertainment venue and residences. According to Nicole Emmons, one of the planners.

For inspiration, lead planners looked at two other former racetrack sites that have been transformed: the former Bay Meadows in San Mateo, California, which became a 93-acre mixed-use development along a transit line, and the old Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. , now home to SoFi Stadium, which hosted this year’s Super Bowl and will host the 2028 Summer Olympics.

But they said their biggest inspiration was Daniel Burnham’s iconic 1909 Chicago Plan and how infrastructure was intertwined with open space.

“We hope that (the Bears plan) pays homage to the thinkers who came before us here in Chicago, perhaps echoes of the Midway, and we hope that these plans are not small plans and that they contain magic” , said planner Paul Milana. .

Manage traffic


Bears Chairman/CEO Ted Phillips, middle, and Chairman George McCaskey, second from right, said at a town hall meeting Thursday in Arlington Heights that they were seeking public assistance for the project's infrastructure redevelopment of Arlington Park.

Bears Chairman/CEO Ted Phillips, middle, and Chairman George McCaskey, second from right, said at a town hall meeting Thursday in Arlington Heights that they were seeking public assistance for the project’s infrastructure redevelopment of Arlington Park.
-John Stark | Personal photographer

Peter Lemmon, transportation engineer at Bears consulting Kimley-Horn and Associates, said there would be 10 total access points to the property and four traffic lights outside – some new and some current.

For drivers leaving Route 53 via the Northwest Highway, plans call for two new underpasses that would pass under the street and train tracks and connect to Commuter Drive and the stadium parking lots.

For those going down to Euclid northbound, engineers want improvements to the shoulders so drivers can use two lanes on game days.

They also want to bring back an underpass for pedestrians at the station or create a level crossing so fans don’t have to cross the tracks.

While Thursday’s meeting was led by the Bears, the Arlington Heights Village Council Committee’s entire meeting Monday night will include a discussion of the Bears’ preliminary plans.

Village staff will outline their discussions with the team and outline next steps. The board is not expected to take action and Bears representatives will not be there, officials said.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Forest View Educational Center theater, 2121 S. Goebbert Road. Participants must enter through door no. 34.

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