Waukegan woos Bears amid search for new home, offers lakefront location for stadium

With the Chicago Bears no longer solely focused on Arlington Heights as their new home, the mayor of Waukegan is asking the NFL franchise to take a look at her city.

In a letter penned to Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren on Monday, Mayor Ann B. Taylor highlighted the north suburban city's proximity to the organization's current headquarters and practice facilities at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

"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," according to a copy of the letter provided to FOX 32 News by the city of Waukegan.

Among the many advantages Taylor pointed out in her letter to Warren was the city's transportation infrastructure, which includes Interstate 94 and U.S. Route 41, a major stop on Metra's Union Pacific North Line, and the Waukegan National Airport.

Taylor also said the city, with a population of about 88,000, has a rich history with the team, including the previous Halas Hall located at Lake Forest College, and their winter training facility in the early 1990s. She also noted that for generations, many Bears players have made Lake County and its neighboring towns their homes.

"Our working class and diverse community is as tough as the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears, and our leadership team at Waukegan City Hall is as aggressive as Justin Fields running the ball downfield when it comes to creating economic opportunities for our City, our residents, and the region at large," Taylor said.


Taylor closed out the letter by extending an invitation to Warren and other members of the Bears' hierarchy to visit Waukegan to learn more about the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" the city can offer the organization.

"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," Taylor said.

"Again, I would be pleased to host you and your leadership team to discuss a potential partnership between the Chicago Bears and the City of Waukegan."

Arlington Park International Racecourse on Oct. 6, 2021, in Arlington Heights. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Waukegan is the latest city to attempt to lure the Bears after the team announced earlier this month that it was considering other stadium options besides the Arlington International Racecourse, which it purchased for $197 million from Churchill Downs in February.

The city of Naperville launched its own bid to try to lure the Bears after talks with Arlington Heights ground to a standstill amid disagreements between the team and surrounding area over the property’s tax assessment and a recent settlement with Churchill Downs, which they believe "fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state."

On May 24, Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli sent the Bears a letter, asking to meet the team and discuss available properties in the sprawling western suburb. The Bears met with Wehrli on June 2, and the team said it remains open to entertaining other proposals while continuing to develop the Arlington Heights site.

"We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus," Hagel said in a statement. "It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois."