PICTURES: See renderings for Bears Arlington Park project


Controlling the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft is a truly transformative opportunity for the Bears. Whether GM Ryan Poles stays put or trades down, and how many assets he’s able to acquire if he does trade the pick will have a massive impact on whether or not the team’s rebuild results in long term success. But the biggest opportunity for massive change within the organization will have nothing to do with on-field decisions.

The Bears officially bought the 326-acre Arlington Park property on Wednesday, giving them a unique opportunity to build a new stadium, an entire entertainment district around that stadium, and control the process themselves. There are still several questions surrounding the project before the team breaks ground, like if there will be public funding for the development of the area surrounding the stadium, and if so, how much. There are questions about how long construction would take and when the Bears could move from Soldier Field to the suburbs.

We still don’t have answers for lots of those questions, but we do have some idea of what Arlington Park could look like when it becomes Bears World.

“‎Make no mistake, this is much more than a stadium project,” the Bears said in a letter published last September. “Any development of Arlington Park will propose to include a multi-purpose entertainment, commercial/retail, and housing district that will provide considerable economic benefits to Cook County, the surrounding region and State of Illinois.”

The long-term plans for Arlington Park will be fluid, but for now the team envisions developing restaurants, hotels, parks, gyms, office space and even residential areas in addition to a new stadium. Of course the new home stadium for the Bears will garner the most attention, and the team revealed that they’re planning an enclosed stadium to protect the team and fans from the outside elements. Say goodbye to Bears weather, but say hello to the opportunity to host marquee national events. While the Bears will likely only host one Super Bowl in their new stadium (cold weather cities usually only host one championship game to celebrate a new stadium opening before the Big Game moves back to warmer-weather cities), the team is hopeful they can lure other big-ticket items like the College Football Playoffs and the Final Four.

In November, Hart Howerton, the firm hired to create the master vision for the Arlington Park project, released renderings for the mixed-use district that would lead up to the stadium.

The entire project could take an estimated 10 years to complete, including the stadium and surrounding entertainment district.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot released a statement following the news that the Bears had closed on Arlington Park expressing hope that the city could still convince the team to stay at Soldier Field. However the Bears have made it clear they are not engaged in any other discussions for stadiums, including renovations to Soldier Field. They are solely focused on building a new complex in Arlington Heights.

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