The Chicago Bears have officially closed on the purchase of a 326-acre property in Arlington Park, Illinois, the team announced in an "open letter" to fans on Wednesday (February 15).
The Bears previously announced the signing of a $197.2 million purchase and sale agreement (PSA) with Churchill Downs Inc. for the 326-acre property in the Illinois suburb in September, with both moves leading to increased speculation of a move away from the historic Soldier Field in downtown Chicago.
"Finalizing the purchase does not guarantee the land will be developed, but it is an important next step in our ongoing evaluation of the opportunity," the Bears said in the open letter published on Wednesday. "There is still a tremendous amount of due diligence work to be done to determine if constructing an enclosed state-of-the-art stadium and multi-purpose entertainment district is feasible.
"Should we proceed, the development of the Arlington Heights property would be one of the largest mega-projects in Midwest history. Possible construction of a stadium-anchored development is projected by analysts to create more than 48,000 jobs, generate $9.4 billion in economic impact for the Chicagoland economy and provide $3.9 billion in new labor income to workers across the region. The completed mega-project would create more than 9,750 long-term jobs, generate $1.4 billion in annual economic impact for Chicagoland and provide $601 million in annual labor income to workers across Chicagoland."
The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971 -- having previously played at Staley Field (1920) and Wrigley Field (1921-1970) -- but the stadium initially opened in 1924, making it the oldest in the NFL and, holding just 61,500 fans, the smallest capacity in the league.
The franchise currently has a lease with Soldier Field that runs through 2033.
In July, the Chicago Tribune reported the Bears would need to pay $84 million in damages to the city of Chicago if their lease is broken in five years.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a statement regarding the Bears' PSA saying, "We remain committed to continuing to work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions," NBC Chicago reports.
Soldier Field underwent renovation following the 2001 season, which forced the Bears to relocate to the University of Illinois in Champagne for the 2002 NFL season.