Chicago Bears

A timeline into the Chicago Bears' exploration of a new stadium site as team reportedly shifts focus

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After months of seeming like a near-certainty that the Chicago Bears would move north to Arlington Heights, a report from Crain's Chicago Business on Friday indicated that the team was shifting their focus back to the city.

The tumultuous fiasco that has gone on for nearly three years has seen the team buy the property at Arlington Park, oversee the demolition of the nearly century-old horse race track and face steep differences with local officials on the valuation of the property.

With the Bears reportedly looking to stay in Chicago after all, here's a deeper look into the wild ride of the past few years, where the future of one of the NFL's most storied franchises has unpredictably shifted time after time.

June 17, 2021 - Bears submit bid to buy Arlington Park

Then-Bears CEO and Team President Ted Phillips announced that the team had submitted a bid to buy Arlington Park from Churchill Downs, saying the team could "further evaluate the property and its potential."

June 23, 2021 - Bears approved to build stadium by Arlington Heights Board

The Arlington Heights Village Board allowed the Bears to clear a mostly procedural hurdle, voting to approve a zoning overlay that allows the team to build a football stadium at the Arlington Park site.

October 20, 2021 - Bears, Arlington Heights begin zoning talks

Despite efforts by then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot to keep the Bears in Chicago, the team begins talks with Arlington Heights on local zoning and approval processes.

August 5, 2022 - Proposed ordinance aims to leave Arlington Heights taxpayers off the hook

A proposed ordinance opposed by the village's mayor aims to ensure that Arlington Heights taxpayers are left off the hook for any development related to the Bears' relocation efforts.

September 6, 2022 - Plans for Bears stadium at Arlington Park unveiled

Ahead of a community meeting later that week, plans for a Chicago Bears stadium at Arlington Park were unveiled to the public. The renderings showcased a nearby hotel, restaurants and parks, aiming to surround the stadium with a community space.

September 8, 2022 - Bears reveal that planned stadium would include a roof

Integral to the team's aspirations of having a stadium capable of hosting a Super Bowl, the Bears revealed that the planned stadium would include a permanent roof.

Then-President Ted Phillips expressed concerns over the cost and maintenance of a retractable roof when making the announcement.

November 7, 2022 - 'Master plan' revealed for Bears' stadium, surrounding area

Graphics and renderings of a "master plan" for the Arlington Park site are released, showcasing everything from shops and hotels to the stadium and public transportation access in a 31-page document.

November 8, 2022 - Bears, Arlington Heights agree to pre-development plan

The Village of Arlington Heights approved a pre-development plan for the 326-acre site, agreeing with the Bears on the framework and construction potential of the land.

January 12, 2023 - Bears hire Kevin Warren as Team President/CEO

Taking over for Ted Phillips and coming back to the NFL after a few years spent as the Big Ten Commissioner, Kevin Warren was named as the new Team President and CEO for the Chicago Bears.

Warren's notable previous experience was highlighted by 15 seasons spent with the rival Minnesota Vikings, including five seasons as the Chief Operating Officer from 2015 to 2019.

February 15, 2023 - Bears officially close on Arlington International Racecourse property

The long-planned purchase is made official as the Bears close on the property at Arlington International Racecourse, but cautioned fans that the purchase did not guarantee the development of a new stadium.

March 29, 2023 - Still no timeline for construction at Arlington Park

Despite closing on the property over a month earlier, Bears chairman George McCaskey and incoming Team President Kevin Warren said that there was still no timeline for construction to begin.

Warren and McCaskey added that they were in "no rush" to get started, adding that the team would plan extensively ahead of breaking ground.

May 29, 2023 - Arlington Heights mayor says 'ball rolling,' but stadium plans remain far from set

With demolition work underway at the Arlington International Racecourse, Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes said that while the ball was rolling between the two sides, stadium plans remained far from official.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to build a new stadium, so we’re still a long, long way to go in terms of final plans,” he said. “But it is a step in the right direction, and we’re going to keep the ball rolling, so to speak.”

June 2, 2023 - Bears announce Arlington Heights 'no longer our singular focus' while Naperville mayor submits a pitch

In a stunning reversal just days after it appeared some progress was being made, the Bears announced that pursuing a stadium in Arlington Heights was no longer the singular focus of the club.

The shift came after the Bears saw major differences between their valuations of the property and the values from the Cook County Assessor.

The team said it was committed to listening to proposals from other municipalities, while Mayor Hayes said that the village expected the Bears to explore other opportunities.

Meanwhile, a meeting was held between Warren and Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli to discuss the possibility of the Bears building a new home in the western suburb that approximately 150,000 Illinoisans call home.

June 13, 2023 - Waukegan submits pitch to Bears as team considers other sites

With Naperville suddenly vying to become the next home of the Chicago Bears, Waukegan Mayor Ann B. Taylor made a push while touting the opportunity for a lakefront entertainment district.

Taylor acknowledged the club's "rich history in Lake County" in her pitch, referencing the Bears' headquarters in Lake Forest and the tendency of many players to reside in the suburban county.

June 27, 2023 - Warren says Bears need a new home, casting doubt on future at Soldier Field

Bears Team President Kevin Warren proclaims that the team needs a new home, casting doubt on their future at Soldier Field despite the team's hesitancy to pursue prior plans in Arlington Heights.

June 28, 2023 - Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin elaborates on city's pitch

With more proposals from suburbs coming in, Aurora Mayor and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin made his case for the state's second-largest city.

Irvin touted resources and capability, highlighting a recent deal with Hollywood Casino as evidence of the city's willingness to get something done while bringing up the possibility of working with other nearby suburbs.

July 27, 2023 - Kevin Warren, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson issue joint statement on talks

With stadium plans in flux, Kevin Warren and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson issued a joint statement, indicating the two sides were still in communication as uncertainty grew over the Arlington Heights site.

“We continued our productive discussion this week that began in early June," the brief statement read. "We plan to have regular dialogue with each other, and across our respective staffs, as we work together to meet the needs of the citizens of Chicago and Bears fans.”

September 8, 2023 - Warren addresses season ticket holders, reiterates commitment for dome

Kevin Warren issued a letter to Bears' season ticket holders ahead of the 2023 season, dedicating part of his address to the Bears' uncertain future plans regarding a new stadium.

Warren informed fans that talks with both Chicago and Arlington Heights continued as the team strived for a home that could host a Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and other major year-round events.

October 24, 2023 - Country Club Hills makes Hail Mary pitch for new Bears' stadium

Despite being a mostly overlooked suburb south of Chicago, Country Club Hills submitted a pitch, pointing to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. as an example of a predominantly Black area hosting a thriving entertainment and residential district.

A specific site for the stadium in the suburb located near I-57 and I-80 was not stated in the pitch.

January 6, 2024 - Warren teases to stadium update in next 'couple of months'

Toward the end of the 2023 NFL season, Kevin Warren told fans that concrete progress was being made for a new stadium, with an update just a couple of months away.

"I'm pleased with the progress we've made and I'm just happy to finish strong this season, looking forward to the game this weekend and continue making progress on the stadium," Warren said.

January 17, 2024 - Indiana bill aims to lure Bears to Northwest Indiana

Legislation introduced in Indiana would establish a professional sports commission for Northwest Indiana in an effort to bring a sports franchise to the area, particularly the Chicago Bears.

Touting lower costs in Indiana, the commission would "help make Northwest Indiana a more attractive option for them and other sports teams," the bill's author said.

February 2, 2024 - Bears reportedly shift focus back to Chicago

In a stunning reversal of earlier plans, a report from Crain's Chicago Business states that the Bears' goal is now to construct a stadium south of Soldier Field.

The report states that the stadium would be financed thanks to a bonding clause in the law that governs the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. To ease possible difficulties with building on the lakefront, Hinz suggests that Soldier Field would be converted to public parks and athletic fields.

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