The Chicago Bears might move to Arlington Heights after all.
After months of (seemingly) far-fetched speculation, the team announced on Thursday that it has submitted a bid to purchase Arlington International Racecourse.
Churchill Downs put Arlington up for sale earlier this year. The Bears have a lease to play at Soldier Field until at least 2033, but it appears that they are confident they can break the agreement if needed.
This could also be a negotiating tactic for the Bears to improve the current conditions of their lease.
But if it’s more than that, one would have to think that Churchill Downs would be inclined to sell to the Bears, depending on the offer.
A new era could be in store, Bears fans.
Why might the Bears want to move to Arlington Heights?
For starters, creating a larger complex would put the Bears in a position to host bigger events.
Soldier Field is never considered for Super Bowls, Final Fours, etc. If the Bears build a Minnesota Vikings-like stadium in Arlington Heights, they will certainly be in the mix for events such as those.
“Bear Weather” would be a thing of the past.
The Arlington International property spans 326 acres, so in theory, the city and the Bears could also build an entire entertainment district around the new stadium. While the lakefront is a nice perk for the current Soldier Field location, the stadium is mostly isolated from other businesses.
While Soldier Field is in Chicago, it’s not easy to access. Certain fans will groan about the possibility of moving to Arlington Heights, but it’s not that much more inconvenient.
There is a Metra train stop that goes directly to the land the Bears are trying to purchase. It’s about a 50-minute train ride from Chicago to Arlington Heights.
Why might Churchill Downs sell to the Bears?
There’s been plenty of drama surrounding Churchill Downs and this sale. But reading the tea leaves, it seems that its main objective is to prevent a casino or racino from operating on the property in the future.
That’s because Churchill Downs owns a majority stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Rivers and Arlington are about a 20-minute drive from one another, and Churchill has been accused of taking anti-competitive measures.
However, a Bears sale could please all parties.
While the Bears could theoretically host a sportsbook at their new stadium, there wouldn’t be a full casino or horse racetrack. It’s hard to argue that a Bears stadium would impact Rivers Casino.
The city of Arlington Heights would also love if the Bears moved to the suburbs.
“A professional sports team would be exciting,” Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said. “Even if they were to come, you’d see some other redevelopment prospects as well.”
Arlington Heights has attempted to steer the sale toward a racino. But without knowing the terms of the offers, one would have to think that city officials would see the potential of bringing an NFL franchise to town.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest on this story at PlayIllinois.com.