Bears to reveal early plans for Arlington Park 'entertainment district' at community meeting
In what may be another sign that the Chicago Bears are serious about a move to the suburbs, the team announced today it will host an informational community meeting next week in Arlington Heights to reveal conceptual plans for the redevelopment of Arlington Park.
The public meeting is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, at the John Hersey High School gymnasium, 1900 E. Thomas St. The school's parking lot will open at 5 p.m. and the doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is first come, first served until capacity is reached.
According to the Bears' announcement, the meeting will open with statements from team leadership, who then will present conceptual plans for a "transit-oriented, mixed-use entertainment district anchored by a stadium."
Indications are the discussion will focus on a preliminary overall plan for the site, not just a stadium.
The makeover of the shuttered horse racing track and the 326 acres on which it sits would be one of the largest development projects in Illinois history, according to the team.
The team stressed that the event is informational only, and not an official public meeting of Arlington Heights' village government.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said village officials continue to have "very good meetings" with the team about its plans for Arlington Park. Asked when the team will bring its proposals before official village panels, Hayes said "relatively soon."
"As with any development, they want to get public feedback on what they have planned," Hayes said of next week's informational meeting. "That's really what it's all about."
The Bears have been exploring the potential for a new state-of-the-art stadium on the Arlington Park property since announcing a tentative $197.2 million deal to buy the site from owner Churchill Downs last September.
While a closing on the sale isn't expected until early 2023, the team has hired architects, land planners and other consultants to draw up plans for the site.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has made a pitch aimed at keeping the team at Soldier Field -- including by placing a dome over the historic lakefront stadium -- but the Bears have consistently said their focus remains on Arlington Park. The Bears' lease on Soldier Field doesn't expire until after the 2033 season, but it's been reported the team can break the lease after the 2026 season by paying an $84 million penalty.