Bears Stadium

Chicago Bears stadium: Who's in the running and where will they end up?

Breaking down the players in the game to host the next Chicago Bears stadium

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On June 2, the Chicago Bears announced the re-opening of their hypothetical stadium free agency. They declared Arlington Heights is no longer the organization's "singular focus" as the location for their next stadium.

Seeing the Bears are without concrete direction for a new stadium plan, multiple municipalities have jumped to express their interest in hosting the Bears. A new suburb unveiled themselves as potential suitors on Tuesday, too.

The Bears are many steps away from actually moving off of Arlington Heights. But still, we can lay out the possibilities the Bears have in front of them, as it pertains to potential stadium locations.

Soldier Field

Let's scratch the least likely option off the list, first.

Soldier Field will not be an option for the Bears' long-term future. Yes, the Bears have run into a bump in the road recently with the $197.2 million piece of land they bought in Arlington Heights (more on this later). But that doesn't mean they will pivot to Soldier Field.

Soldier Field offers the Bears zero benefits. The Bears don't own Soldier Field; they are lessees from Chicago's park district. This leaves them empty-handed from countless monetary opportunities that the city of Chicago reaps the benefits from.

A professional football team renting to play at a stadium is ludicrous. The Bears will have innumerable opportunities to monetize the next stadium they construct. None of that is feasible at Soldier Field.

Until the city of Chicago is willing to offer a transfer of ownership to the Bears -- which they most certainly will not execute -- the Bears will look elsewhere. Even if that means forfeiting one of the most iconic locations on the city's lakefront, it will greatly benefit the Bears to move elsewhere.

Arlington Heights

Let's make this abundantly clear from the get-go. Arlington Heights is the priority for the Bears to build a new stadium and a surrounding area to call theirs.

On Feb. 15, the Bears announced their purchase of the Arlington Park property for $197.2 million. They closed on a deal they entered the sweepstakes for in September 2021. It was a two-plus year endeavor for the Bears and Churchill Downs Inc. to shake hands on a deal for the land.

Recently, however, both sides reached an impasse. A triennial reassessment of the once $33 million property valuation multiplied six-fold. Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office placed the value at $197 million -- the price the Bears paid for it.

Churchill Downs Inc., which is on the hook for the 2022 tax bill, and the Arlington Heights school districts recently came to an agreed valuation of $95 million. That valuation decreases the tax bill from ~$16 million to under $8 million.

The deal is a one-year agreement, meaning the Bears and Arlington Heights will need to come to a consensus on the property value next year. The Bears believe the property is worth around $33 million, which would diminish their tax bill to about $4 million annually.

Until the Bears and Arlington Heights come to an agreement, the Bears will continue to look elsewhere. Their persistence to shop around should be chalked up as a negotiating tactic. Arlington Heights offers them the best opportunity to create the most profitability for a stadium. The Bears purchased 326 acres of land, a size unparalleled to surrounding municipalities.

Naperville

Once the Bears announced that Arlington Heights is no longer a "singular focus," Naperville Mayor Scott Wherli immediately took to writing Bears CEO and President Kevin Warren a letter.

"The city would welcome the opportunity to review your business needs and our available properties," Wehrli's letter said. "Through prudent planning, Naperville is accessible via our region's major interstates and Metra. We have several available or to-be-available sites that may fit the characteristics you are looking for in your future home."

MORE: Could Bears actually move to Naperville? What to know as team explores options

Naperville was the first suburb to express interest directly after the Bears reassessed their intentions. This is convenient for the Bears, assuming Naperville wouldn't provide any tax assessment issues and may be more inclined to provide tax support for infrastructure, unlike Arlington Heights, who has remained skeptical.

For Warren and the McCaskey's, it's comforting -- and advantageous -- that the suburbs are jumping at the chance to host their next stadium. For one, the Bears would not be without options if they improbably chose to move off Arlington Heights. And Naperville's interest will serve strongly as a negotiating tactic for the Bears and Arlington Heights to shake hands on future property and tax value.

Naperville offers a comfortable backup plan for the Bears, should things improbably go south with Arlington Heights.

Waukegan

On Tuesday, Waukegan Mayor Ann B. Taylor sent a letter to the Bears expressing the town's interest in inviting the Bears to the Northern suburb.

"Our City’s staff and I invite you and your leadership team to come to Waukegan to learn about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity our City can offer the Bears," the letter read. "We believe that the Monsters of the Midway deserve the opportunity to continue the tradition of playing along the shores of Lake Michigan, with the market opportunity of having a year-round facility capable of hosting other major events, including the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and other events of an international scale."

MORE: Waukegan mayor sends letter to Bears in push for stadium consideration

In her letter, Taylor clearly laid out the advantages Waukegan can offer the Bears. One unique and pivotal detail Taylor added, was specific locations where the Bears can construct a new stadium.

"The City of Waukegan, located along Lake Michigan, has multiple large parcels, including lakefront property within 20 minutes of the PNC Center at Halas Hall, that could be developed into both the state-of-the-art stadium and entertainment district the team has publicly expressed interest in building," Taylor said.

She also pointed out that Waukegan's traffic devices "along Interstate 94 and U.S. Route 41, a major stop on Metra’s Union Pacific North Line, and is home to Waukegan National Airport" are easily accessible and useful for the Bears.

The pitch was well-rounded, checking off boxes the Bears need to construct a new home.

But will Waukegan, or any other suburb, win the war?

It's not out of play, but the chances are minuscule at this point. Arlington Heights remains the priority. The Bears are knee-deep with Arlington Park. If the Bears feel they need to move off, they would have a whole other task on their hands dealing with the land in Arlington Heights that would seemingly render useless if the Bears shifted elsewhere.

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