Bears Reveal Initial Masterplan For Potential Arlington Heights Complex

Rendering of Arlington Heights proposal by Hart Howerton Architects

Initial details have been revealed for the potential sports and entertainment complex for the Chicago Bears at 2200 Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights. Located just south of the intersection of Highway 14 and 53, the proposal will replace the now-closed Arlington International Racecourse if the team chooses to pursue its departure from Soldier Field downtown. The Bears and their soon retiring president Ted Phillips are working with San Francisco-based architects Hart Howerton on the conceptual masterplan.

Site context view of the Bears conceptual masterplan via Google Maps

Horse racing has been a popular sport in Chicago since the 1830s and at its peak the city held the most race courses for any metropolitan area, with the Arlington racecourse opening in 1927 and hosting the first ever thoroughbred race with a $1 million purse in 1981. In 1987 after the original facilities burnt down, the owners tapped SOM to design the new grandstand which holds 35,000 seats and features a 200- by 600-foot cantilever roof believed to be the largest in the world at the time. More information on its opening and facts can be found here.

View of the Arlington International Racecourse via

In 2000, the course merged with famed Churchill Downs Company who operates the Kentucky Derby, but in 2021 it closed after nearly 100 years of racing. With Soldier Field having the smallest capacity of any NFL stadium at 61,000 seats, the team entered into a $192 million purchase and sale agreement for the grounds in late 2021. However it hasn’t been an easy ride with the city proposing a new design for Soldier Field and locals petitioning for no public funds to be used in either outcome. But if finalized, the move into a much larger enclosed stadium will allow them to host a Super Bowl, playoffs, and Final Four games.

Rendering of proposed Soldier Field improvements via Landmark Development

Roughly 30 miles northwest of their current home, the plan will redevelop the 326-acre site into a massive mixed-use complex anchored by the new stadium most likely designed by MANICA Architecture who worked on Allegiant Field in Las Vegas. Although the master plan is a work in progress, it is split into two main districts by a large set of lagoons due to various creeks and reservoirs flowing through the site for flood management. These will be traversed by multiple new bridges allowing for crowd control and separation of the two.

Site plan of the Bears conceptual masterplan by Hart Howerton Architects

The northwest portion of the site will hold the new stadium, currently shown as a large massing placeholder, along with over seven parking lots and a new entry from the nearby highway exit. While no official numbers have been released, we can expect a permanent seating capacity between 65,000 to 70,000 which meets the Super Bowl minimum and is in line with the two newest NFL stadiums including the $5.5 billion SoFi in Los Angeles. This will most likely be temporarily expandable for major events and feature large retail and dining elements with modern VIP boxes as well.

View from stadium towards the mixed-use district of the Bears conceptual masterplan by Hart Howerton Architects

Across the bridges will be an expansive new mixed-use district anchored by a linear park offering sightlines to the stadium. With a varying degree of density and building heights, it would potentially hold multiple restaurants, office spaces, hotels, a large fitness center, and various residential structures. Residents and visitors could reach the complex via the aforementioned highway or the on-site Arlington Park Metra Station served by the Union Pacific-Northwest Line, thus the Bears are labeling it as a “transit-oriented mixed-use and entertainment district.”

Interior rendering of proposed Soldier Field improvements via Landmark Development

If fully realized, it will create 48,000 construction jobs, $9.4 billion in economic impact and $3.9 billion in annual labor income for the Chicagoland area. Once completed it would generate 9,750 long-term jobs, $1.4 billion in economic impact and $601 million in annual labor income for the region. In annual taxes it could deliver $16 million for Arlington Heights, $9.8 million for Cook County, and $51.3 million for the state. It should be noted the Bears are the fifth most valuable team in the NFL worth $5.8 billion, with a revenue of $520 million and a two percent debt/value including current stadium debt according to Forbes.

Masterplan of SoFi stadium + mixed-use development in Los Angeles via Architectural Record

No cost has been announced at the moment for the new facilities, but the team has expressed it will not seek public funding for the stadium and its parking, it will however partner with ‘various government bodies’ to build the rest. No formal decision on whether they will move has been made as a purchase of the land does not guarantee it will be developed, but the team expressed it will not pursue any other stadium sites nor the renovations of Soldier Field. While the current contract has them locked in until 2033, starting in 2026 they could end it early for an $84 million payout.

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13 Comments on "Bears Reveal Initial Masterplan For Potential Arlington Heights Complex"

  1. Good riddance. The sooner they move the better for the city. Though why any of these for-profit “sports” franchises expects government handouts, whether from city or state, is quite beyond me. The greed of the owners is astounding.

  2. I’m torn on this. The area does need major events/attractions outside of the core and this would provide for that. Other metros do a much better job of being polymodal. However why not support the One Central development that is urban and a world class location/proposal.

    • Bobby Siemiaszko | September 7, 2022 at 10:14 am | Reply

      I’m wondering if the casino was chosen at One Central and we saw it actually being built if that would’ve changed the Bears mind to stay here. Is anything happening with one central or even the 78 for that matter?

      • The only thing that would have kept the bears here would be finding a way to cram 20K more seats into Solider Field.

      • It’s been like 3 years and all they have is a half finished Wells/Wentworth connector at The 78. No word on DPI either. It’s pretty sad compared to Lincoln Yards and North Union. When Related bought that property I knew it was going to be a painfully slow process and probably reimagined a few times.

        They’re sitting on the former Spire site for about 6 years now as well. They proposed 725 W. Randolph back in 2018 or so too. Related is known for playing the long game and value engineered revisions.

        They really should try to bring in a couple more proven developers like JDL,Riverside & Sterling Bay to break up the site and increase viability. I never trusted Related to follow through on that casino proposal as shown given their track record. Even though it was the superior and most iconic design by any measure. They always over promise and under deliver. Nothing like the NY Related.

    • I can’t get behind the idea of distributing attractions out in the suburbs – I think it just leads to more suburban sprawl, and more people who say they are “from Chicago” when in fact they never enter the city limits and are afraid to do so. The center is the center. But that’s just my view.

  3. The Bears blackmailed the city to force a $400M “renovation” of Soldier Field knowing of all the limitations they currently complain about. Taxpayers money, all of it. Less than 20 years later they come up with this betrayal and BS. Ted Philips and his crew screwed the team, the fans, the city, the state, taxpayers…the list grows.
    It doesn’t matter if the plan is good or not. It’s embarrassing for the Halas family.

  4. What pieces of crud to waste tax dollars on pock-marking Soldier Field only to run away 20 years later. Good riddance, I hope Arlington Heights doesn’t get conned into footing the bill for this huge white elephant. Love this type of development in the burbs, hate that the only thing propelling this political will is pettiness.

  5. Steve River North | September 7, 2022 at 10:22 am | Reply

    Any mention of how many parking spots would be in those 7 lots? Not that many people are going to Metra there, and getting 65K-70K people to park and tailgate and in/out of park will be challenging. Also, nice to see a Stadium side and a “we don’t know” side. LOL

  6. The NFL has been migrating it’s stadiums out to the burbs for years. I’ll miss the tradition, but I don’t know how much Chicago will miss the Bears – nine home games a year, where most of the people who go don’t see any more of Chicago other than from the off ramp to the parking lot, then scurry off home. I just wish Chicago can strip the team of the “Chicago”. It;s the Arlington Heights Teddy Bears from now on. Pro sports is and has always been a business, so if they want more money, go for it. The stadium will be closer to where the players all live as well. See ya.

  7. I’m sure I’m in the minority here but regardless of what happens with this site I’d love to see the racetrack stay. CDI purposefully decided to destroy the track’s viability rather than allow it be upgraded and potentially compete with Rivers casino. Currently the stadium site in the renderings doesn’t overlap with the track’s footprint at all. So put up a stadium, add some entertainment, and keep the track (or sell that part to someone who wants to operate it). Arlington Heights really doesn’t need a new faux-urban housing development anyway.

  8. This is so dumpy, plain, trite and cheap that they might as well have not proposed anything at all.

  9. I love the picture of the “mixed use district” with Chicago looking like a galaxy very very far away in the distance. At least they are clear on their intentions.

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