The Bears are positioned for a future relocation from downtown Chicago to the suburb of Arlington Heights in order to build a new "world-class" stadium. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing the city make its own renovations to keep the team in town. A mayoral committee is set to recommend Chicago "explore the feasibility" of adding a dome to Soldier Field, the Bears' longtime open-air stadium, along with other significant updates to the historic venue, per Crain's Chicago Business.
But on Friday, the Bears shot down those proposals, revealing it's either Arlington Park -- where they plan to build their new home -- or bust.
"The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park," according to a statement from a Bears spokesman, per the Daily Herald. "As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract."
The Bears can exit their Soldier Field lease in 2026, and the team last fall finalized a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse, a 326-acre property in Arlington Heights, with eyes on construction of an entirely new complex. Last renovated in 2002, Soldier Field is an iconic destination among NFL venues because of its history, but it also has the smallest capacity (61,500) of any current stadium. The Arlington Heights area would conceivably also give the Bears room to expand their stadium into a multipurpose entertainment complex.
Lightfoot has openly floated the idea of enclosing Soldier Field before, most recently in February. But her Lakefront Museum Campus Working Group, established to recommend strategic investments to Chicago's lakefront landmarks, is now expected to formally propose Soldier Field improvements. This would include rebuilding parts of the nearly 100-year-old stadium and potentially selling or granting naming rights to the venue, which has been home to the Bears since 1971.
If the Bears entertained the dome proposal, it would likely require taxpayer contributions, per Crain's, with costs estimated between $400 million to $1.5 billion. The most recent NFL stadiums to open with enclosed roofing include the Chargers' and Rams' SoFi Stadium in California, which reportedly cost more than $5 billion; and the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium in Nevada, costing approximately $1.9 billion.
The Bears appear more than willing to take another step forward out of the city. Chicago previously played at Wrigley Field until 1970, but were forced to relocate to a larger stadium larger venue due to AFL-NFL merger policies that required all stadiums seat over 50,000 spectators. Soldier Field has underwent two renovations since 1971, the most recent being in 2002 as the stadium transformed into a state-of-the-art facility for athletic events.