Chicago Bears Eyeing Soldier Field’s South Lot As New Stadium Location
The Chicago Bears' move to Arlington Heights or elsewhere might not be a done deal just yet. The team is reportedly exploring the viability of Soldier Field’s South Lot as a potential new stadium location.
It is unclear if the team is serious about the potential site or merely using it as leverage in negotiations with Arlington Heights, 670 The Score reports. The team purchased the former Arlington International Racecourse in the Chicago suburb for $197.2M earlier this year, and signs point to the location as the most likely future home for the Bears, though a number of suburban cities have tossed their hats into the ring for consideration as well.
The team is using Compass Land Surveying to evaluate the viability of the site, according to 670 The Score. Compass Land Surveying is the same firm that surveyed the site the team purchased in Arlington Heights, as well as other potential locations, according to the outlet.
The city-owned lot on 18th Street is about half a mile from the stadium and has 1,500 spots for parking and tailgating before events, according to a Chicago parking map. Soldier Field lost its historic landmark status in 2006 after making major renovations, NBC Chicago reports, so the city could theoretically demolish Soldier Field to build a whole new stadium.
The team’s property tax situation in Arlington Heights has set back the stadium selection process. Bears management complained in June that new Cook County property assessments could make construction on the site of the racetrack prohibitive, releasing a statement saying the project “is at risk in Arlington Heights.”
The report that the Bears are exploring the South Lot site prompted a firm rebuke from a parks preservation group Thursday, Crain’s Chicago Business reports.
“Our board is calling our lawyers as we speak,” Juanita Irizarry, the executive director of Friends of the Parks, a nonprofit advocacy group known for battling new commercial development along the lakefront, told Crain’s.
The new site exploration is the latest development in a stadium saga that once seemed closer to an open-and-shut case. Naperville, Aurora, Waukegan and Chicago itself have attempted to capitalize on the team’s lengthy negotiations with Arlington Heights by vying for the team's favor as its future home.
The Bears have played their home games at Soldier Field since 1971 and are under contract with the Chicago Park District on a lease that ends in 2033. That lease can be broken as early as 2026 for a fee of $84M.