The intent, most likely, would be for the Bears to move out of Soldier Field and into Arlington Heights. The 326-acre space would allow them to build a football mega stadium and entertainment district.
As expected, the potential move is polarizing among the fan base. It even inspired Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to take a jab at the team.
Churchill Downs will eventually sell the land, but there are many interested buyers. Will they take the Bears’ offer?
PlayIllinois will have the latest news and quotes as this story develops.
Latest news on the potential Arlington Bears
Last updated: July 19
Churchill Downs applies for ’22 racing dates
Churchill Downs has applied for 2022 racing dates at Arlington Park, a somewhat surprising move considering the track is up for sale.
While this doesn’t mean races will actually run at Arlington in 2022, it leaves open the possibility in case there is a slow transition to the new buyer.
Key new information about non-Bears bidder
We now know more about a bidder that’s interested in purchasing Arlington Park.
Below, you’ll see an update regarding Glenstar Properties, which has submitted an offer to buy the land. The Daily Herald reports that Glenstar has a relationship with Neil Bluhm, a key Churchill Downs partner, dating back to 2005.
Bluhm was also shut out of buying about a 20% stake in the Bears back in the 1980s. We’ll see if that has any ramifications here.
Bears have competition for Arlington
Crain’s Chicago Business reports that two prominent local development groups, Glenstar Properties and UrbanStreet Group, have also submitted offers to buy the track.
It is unknown what either would plan for the site, though based on their redevelopment history, it doesn’t looks like racing would be in the cards.
New reporting shows it would be easy for Bears to break Soldier Field lease
The Chicago Tribune reviewed the Bears’ Soldier Field lease, and it would cost about $84 million to do so. While $84 million is a hefty price tag, that’s only a fraction of what the most recent new stadiums have cost to build ($2.2 billion).
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker says state will not fund a new Bears stadium
When asked during a press conference on June 28 whether the state of Illinois would provide funding for a new Bears stadium (in Chicago or elsewhere), Gov. JB Pritzker said:
“That’s not something we’re looking at right now. I think obviously there are private business decisions that are being made.”
With that said, Pritzker voiced support for the Bears staying in Chicago, though his comments weren’t nearly as bold as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s:
“I’ve enjoyed many years of seeing the Bears at Soldier Field, and so you know, the determination about what will happen to that property is a matter of private concern by the sellers. But, for me anyway, I have spent my adult life going to Soldier Field to watch the Bears and have enjoyed that, and I hope that I’ll be able to continue to do that.”
Arlington Heights village board votes to allow zoning suitable for Bears stadium
As expected, the Village of Arlington Heights is all in on a potential Bears move to the suburbs.
On June 21, the board approved an overlay zoning draft that served as a final hurdle regulatory hurdle for building a stadium in Arlington Heights. Of course, property owner Churchill Downs would still need to choose the Bears’ offer.
Bears make BetRivers official sports betting partner
The Chicago Bears announce an exclusive deal with Rivers Casino and the BetRivers sports betting app on June 22. At first glance, this appeared unrelated to the Arlington Heights situation. But after looking more closely, there may be a tie.
Part of the reason Churchill Downs wants to sell the racetrack is because it owns a majority stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Rivers Casino and Arlington International are only about a 20-minute drive apart.
So, Churchill and Rivers are already in business together. Now, Rivers is the official casino and sports betting partner of the Bears.
This deal certainly adds some fuel to the fire.
Read the latest Chicago betting news and Bears odds at PlayIllinois.
Background on Bears moving to Arlington International
The Bears currently play at Soldier Field on the lakefront of Chicago. Their lease ends in 2033, though many believe they could break the lease if necessary.
If the Bears moved to Arlington Heights, they would likely be in the running for marquee events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Cup, etc.
The Bears would also probably have a retractable roof if they moved to Arlington Heights, something they don’t have now.
While Arlington Heights is about a 50-minute drive from the city, and a Metra train stop goes directly to the land. Considering that Soldier Field is typically a traffic nightmare, some feel moving out to the suburbs won’t be much of an inconvenience.
Chicago has played at Soldier Field since 1971. It would mark a huge shift for football in Chicagoland if the Bears were to move to Arlington Heights.