While the Chicago Bears' regular football season doesn't officially start until Game 1 takes place Sunday at noon, the team is expected to draw big crowds Thursday night when team leadership is scheduled to hold a community meeting in Arlington Heights to discuss the Bears' master plan to move to the northwest suburb.
Though the "informational community meeting," running from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at John Hersey High School is open to the public, only 2,000 people will be allowed in.
Tuesday, the Bears released renderings along with more information on their vision for a potential stadium district at the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse, with grand plans for a hotel, restaurants, offices, residents, parks, open space and a dome stadium, giving the team the opportunity to host big events like The Super Bowl and the Final Four College Basketball Tournament.
However, the Bears haven't announced a funding plan. And while the city of Chicago tries to convince the team to stay, an ordinance on Monday was presented to the Arlington Heights board that would bar the village from using tax money as an incentive to lure businesses -- like the Bears -- to the community.
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Here’s what we know about Thursday’s meeting, and where things stand.
The meeting will take place Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., inside the gymnasium at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
Parking lots will open at 5 p.m., and doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Seating will be available on a first come, first serve basis. Only 2,000 people will be allowed entry.
According to the team, "This meeting is informational only and should not be confused with an official public meeting hosted by the Village of Arlington Heights. If the project were to move forward, all required public meetings will take place at later dates."
What Will be Discussed:
A letter from the Bears states that Thursday's informational community meeting will "discuss the potential purchase and possible development of Arlington Park."
"The meeting will include opening remarks from team leadership and conceptual plans for a transit-oriented mixed-use entertainment district anchored by a stadium that would be one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history," the team says.
An agenda has not been provided, and it's unclear whether team leadership will be holding a question and answer session.
How to Watch the Meeting:
According to The Bears, the only way to watch the meeting live is to attend person.
Live streaming of the event or reporting live from it is strictly prohibited, team officials say.
What We Know About the Project:
Details on the proposed stadium have not been revealed, but if approved the Bears would purchase and possibly redevelop Arlington Park and build a “fully enclosed” stadium at the site.
In addition, the Bears would seek to build a large entertainment district around the venue, complete with restaurants, bars, performance spaces and a variety of other features that the team says would be accessible year-round.
The Bears also revealed that they would not seek public financing for the stadium itself, but that they could potentially negotiate with Arlington Heights officials to seek financing for other portions of the proposed site.
According to a press release, the team says that the project could create 48,000 temporary construction jobs and nearly 10,000 long-term jobs around the site, generating more than $9.4 billion in total economic impact.
The team says that negotiations remain underway for purchase of the site, but cautioned that even if they have an approved deal in place that a stadium would not be a guarantee due to other negotiations that would need to take place.
The city of Chicago has attempted to negotiate with the Bears on improvements to Soldier Field, but under terms of the agreement reached with Arlington Heights, the club says that they are solely focused on the new suburban project.