The Bears took their first steps away from Soldier Field (and toward Arlington Heights) back in September, when the team officially announced its plans to purchase Arlington Park. Sure, there was still a bunch of work to be done before the two sides could close the transaction. However, it was a very clear first step in the process.
What’s next, per reporting from Christopher Placek of the Daily Herald, is a public review of the Bears’ redevelopment plans for the property. Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told reporters the review has a tentatively scheduled date for this upcoming fall. I’d consider that to be timely, as the Arlington Heights mayor said it would come before the closing of what is a nearly $200 million purchase agreement scheduled for early 2023. Although, for what it’s worth, Mayor Hayes seems to be tempering expectations:
“We don’t expect that it’ll be anything really detailed,” Hayes said, via the Daily Herald. “They’re not going to have a final plan for all 326 acres and say, ‘Approve it yes or no.’ That’s not going to happen. It’ll be some kind of preliminary approval that will give them enough of a comfort level where they can sign the final agreement.”
While the mayor doesn’t expect something detailed, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it. After all, the folks who designed the Raiders’ new stadium have been tabbed to help the Bears design theirs. Perhaps we’ll see a mock-up of what the property could look like? That could be one way to add some spice to what might otherwise be a rubber-stamping of an inevitable approval.
If not, then it might just be a casual next step in what figures to be a lengthy process. Which is saying something, because it feels like we’ve been at this for a while already. A move out of Soldier Field has been on our radar since June 2020. And it has been a part of the Bears’ recent narrative arc on so many occasons over the last few years.
There seems to be a level expectation that this is going down. That the purchase agreement with Churchill Downs Inc. will close and that the Bears and the folks in Arlington Heights will have an agreement in place as the “T’s” get crosses and “I’s” get dots. And that might be the biggest takeaway here, the whole inevitability of this move. It isn’t at fait accompli levels just yet. But it sure feels like we’re gradually moving toward that space.
This is a massive project the Bears are undertaking. Not just in terms of cash, although a $197 million purchase is nothing to sneeze at these days. But also in terms of size of property. The Bears are purchasing 326 acres of land, which is a lot. Not just for me or you. But for anyone. So it would be wise to have some plans in place and ideas with what to do when (if?) the property becomes theirs. At least, that’s what I’d do when making such a purchase. Then again, Arlington Heights seems willing to welcome the Bears with open arms. So it feels more like a matter of when – not if – it happens. No matter what the fall meeting has in store.