Bears' move to Arlington Heights is 'past the hypothetical stage,' mayor says
The Chicago Bears' hiring of architects and other consultants for a proposed new stadium at Arlington Park shows the team is serious about moving to Arlington Heights, Mayor Tom Hayes said Thursday.
"We're very far past the hypothetical stage," Hayes said. "It's very exciting news."
Hayes said village leaders have received "no indication" the Bears' proposal to take over the racetrack property on Euclid Avenue isn't for real, or a possible ploy to negotiate a better deal with Chicago officials to stay in the city.
He's also confident the Bears are talking about putting a full-fledged stadium on the racetrack site, as opposed to a practice facility.
After all, Hayes said, a multimillion-dollar renovation of the team's Halas Hall headquarters in Lake Forest wrapped up less than three years ago.
"I don't see them relocating that facility," Hayes said.
The Bears have hired at least three firms as part of its due diligence process for the 326-acre site it has under contract, a team spokesman told the Daily Herald on Wednesday night.
Those firms include Kansas City-based Manica Architecture, which will draw up initial stadium blueprints; CAA Icon, a Denver-based strategic management consulting firm for sports and entertainment facility owners, operators and professional teams; and Jones Lang LaSalle, the Chicago-based commercial real estate firm.
The Bears and Arlington Park owner Churchill Downs announced last fall that the team had inked a $197.2 million agreement for the racetrack site.
The due diligence process is designed for the Bears to ensure the location works financially and from a land-use perspective, Hayes said. The latter category includes land size, transportation access, infrastructure and other variables, he said.
Eventually, the Bears will submit building plans to the village to ensure they meet building codes and other ordinances. Hayes expects the village will hold a public hearing on the plans by the end of this year so residents can share their opinions.
"They certainly will be an important part of the process going forward," he said.
Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen said late last month that the purchase is expected to close in the first half of 2023, and Hayes said that's still what everybody is anticipating.
Now that the Bears have hired new General Manager Ryan Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus, Hayes said he expects progress on the Arlington Park project "will pick up pretty quickly in the months ahead."
"They're moving in a much more dedicated manner," he said.