Déjà vu all over again? Some of the suburbs the Bears have checked out through the decades

The Chicago Bears have a long history of toe-dipping in the suburbs for a stadium deal. Almost immediately after the Bears began playing at Chicago's Soldier Field in 1971, the team's leaders began eyeing surrounding suburbs.

In addition to Arlington Heights and Naperville, sites have been considered in Aurora, Bensenville, Bolingbrook, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Keeneyville, Warrenville, Waukegan and West Chicago.

Here's a look back at some of the notable attempts.


​In the first of many plays to land a stadium deal in Arlington Heights, Chicago Bears founder George Halas speaks at a luncheon hosted by the village's Chamber of Commerce and says, “I hope and pray that 1977 will find the Bears contending for a title in a new stadium in Arlington Heights.”

Arlington Park is the targeted site. The team is willing to sign a 35-year lease for a 76,000-seat stadium and has an agreement with the racetrack's owner at the time, Madison Square Garden Corp., for the plan that also calls for high-rise apartments and commercial buildings.

By September, however, plans are scuttled because of the project's estimated costs.


Six years after the Bears sign a 20-year lease at Soldier Field, the team options 580 acres of land known as Odlum Farm in Keeneyville. Michael McCaskey, the Bears' president at the time, begins seeking state and local money for the deal, saying the site “is at the top of our list.”

A month later, the Bears rule out the site and turn their eyes back to Arlington Heights and other areas.

In 1987, McCaskey continues to talk about the suburbs as a possible home and again specifically mentions Arlington Heights in 1989.

The Odlum Farm property near Lake Street and Gary Avenue eventually becomes developed with warehouses and other businesses.


  In 1991, then-West Chicago Mayor Paul Netzel suggested 600 acres of land along Roosevelt Road for a new Chicago Bears stadium. The area eventually became the DuPage Business Center. Paul Valade/

As McCaskey grows weary of stadium negotiations with Chicago officials, he eyes potential stadium sites in Arlington Heights, Bolingbrook, Hoffman Estates, Warrenville and Waukegan.

Paul Netzel, the mayor of West Chicago at the time, suggests more than 600 acres of land owned by the DuPage Airport Authority for a new Bears stadium. The proposed site is bounded by Roosevelt Road to the north and Fermilab to the south. It lies on the border between DuPage and Kane counties.

“When McCaskey got upset at the city of Chicago,” Netzel says at the time, “I turned to our guys and said, 'Let's take a look at it.'”

After the stadium deal doesn't come to fruition, the West Chicago land is transformed decades later into the DuPage Business Center.


  The Cantera property in Warrenville was floated in 1995 as a potential stadium site for the Chicago Bears. The area is now a massive development of retail businesses, restaurants, hotels and office space. Paul Valade/

The Bears option land in Hoffman Estates and Aurora while also looking at sites in Naperville and Bensenville.

Land north and south of I-88 in Warrenville also is considered, but it eventually becomes the sprawling 650-acre Cantera development of retail businesses, restaurants, hotels, office space and more.

The Hoffman Estates property sits north of I-90 near the southwest corner of Higgins and Beverly roads, at the site of a quarry owned by the Plote family. McCaskey says the $285 million project would feature a sunken arena inside the quarry.

“We'll just have to keep working with them,” says Michael O'Malley, Hoffman Estates' village president at the time. “We have a lot to offer.”

In August, the Bears option land in Aurora just north of I-88 and east of Eola Road.

The Bears decline to follow through on the Aurora and Hoffman Estates properties. The Aurora land is developed into mostly warehouses, while the Hoffman Estates site, west of the former Sears campus, remains largely undeveloped.


In 1998, Allen Busse tried to sell the Chicago Bears 70 acres of farmland in Elk Grove Village. After a stadium deal fell through, the property was developed into a $1 billion technology park. Daily Herald file photo

As the Bears attempt to renegotiate their Soldier Field lease that's set to expire in 2000, Elk Grove Township takes center stage with nearly 70 acres owned by farmer Allen Busse.

The site lies between Higgins Road and Oakton Street, and Stanley Street and Lively Boulevard.

“I am ready to sign, and it's ready,” Busse says at the time.

A stadium deal falls through, however, and $1 billion is invested to create a technology park at the site.


In 2021 — despite having signed a lease in 2001 to remain at Soldier Field until 2033, and after hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in stadium renovations — the Bears submit a bid to purchase the Arlington Park racetrack.

Many observers felt the team's $197.2 million purchase of the 326-acre property signaled a future NFL stadium being built in the Northwest suburbs.

But now, according to multiple reports, the Bears are now planning to provide $2 billion in support for a new publicly-owned stadium on the Chicago lakefront.

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