The Chicago Bears have signed a purchasing agreement for Arlington International Racecourse, as first reported by The Athletic. Under the agreement, the Bears would pay $197.2 million for the land.
In recent weeks, the Bears had become the most likely suitor for the land as we learned more about how Churchill Downs was conducting the sale. Now, it looks like the Chicago Bears Arlington Heights deal is nearly final.
The Bears released the following statement on Wednesday morning:
Are the Bears moving to Arlington Heights?
The team informed Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot of the agreement on Tuesday night.
Lightfoot responded with the following statement:
“We are not surprised by this move. We remain committed to continuing to work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions.”
Lightfoot has recently softened her stance when it comes to the Bears moving out of Chicago. When news broke that the Bears would submit a bid for Arlington Park, Lightfoot said:
“As a season ticket holder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team. And like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”
The Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033. However, they should be able to break that lease by paying an $84 million fee, which could decrease if they don’t move before 2026.
Read More>>> The latest on Lightfoot’s efforts to keep the Bears in Chicago.
One would figure the Bears have taken this into account when pursuing the Arlington property.
A win for Churchill Downs?
Churchill Downs has recently come under fire for steering the sale away from anyone who would continue Illinois horse racing or implement casino gambling at the property.
With the number of Illinois horse tracks dwindling, it was a rough look for Churchill Downs. Arlington Park hosted its last horse races on Saturday.
However, a sale to the Bears could be a win for all parties. Churchill Downs avoids extra competition for Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, and a Bears-Arlington marriage has become increasingly popular among the public in recent months.
Michael McCormick, a horse racing industry expert whose work has appeared in AmericasBestRacing.net, recently told PlayIllinois:
In my opinion, only a sale to the Bears can potentially change the narrative from them (Churchill Downs) merely being the people who “killed horse racing in Illinois.”
Churchill Downs owns a majority stake in Rivers Casino. This summer, Rivers Casino became the Bears official casino partner and BetRivers Sportsbook is the Bears sports betting partner.
Turns out, all of this was likely related.
Is there an Arlington Bears stadium in our future?
A move to the suburbs could allow the Bears to expand their business interests, and frankly, upgrade their facilities.
Soldier Field is an iconic venue, but the Bears pushed for renovations for years. The Chicago Park District, which owns Soldier Field, has not always cooperated.
If the Bears finalize this move, they can build a mega stadium that can host Final Fours, College Football Playoffs and even a Super Bowl in Illinois. None of that is possible at Soldier Field.
And with 326 acres of land, the Bears could also build an entire entertainment district around the stadium if they choose. Hello, retail sports betting?
It’s far too early to know any plan specifics, but the possibilities are substantial.
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And considering how poor the Bears have looked on the field this season, some positive off-the-field headlines certainly don’t hurt right now.