News that Arlington International Racecourse will be sold to a property developer has sparked plenty of speculation over the future of the park, with some suggesting it become a new stadium for the Chicago Bears.
According to a press release from Churchill Downs Incorporated, the 326-acre property in suburban Arlington Heights will be sold, and the company selling the property will aim to find a buyer who will redevelop it.
“Arlington’s ideal location in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, together with direct access to downtown Chicago via an on-site Metra rail station, presents a unique redevelopment opportunity. We expect to see robust interest in the site and look forward to working with potential buyers, in collaboration with the Village of Arlington Heights, to transition this storied location to its next phase,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said the city plans to "encourage an exciting new use" for the property.
"Although the Village does not own or control the property, we will be working with CDI and CBRE to encourage an exciting new use that takes advantage of the uniqueness of the property with the goal of putting it to its highest and best use," Hayes said in a statement. "Certainly anything allowed by our zoning and land use regulations is on the table to include some type of mixed-use development or a single-use like an entertainment venue or sports stadium."
As for the speculation over whether the Bears could play at such a stadium, Hayes said it would be up to the team.
"Whether the Bears are a possibility is primarily a question for them given the legal and contractual obligations they may have to their current home in Chicago," he said.
The future of the racetrack was also a topic of discussion during a forum for village board candidates, the Daily Herald reports. There, architect and trustee Jim Tinaglia said he's already drawn up conceptual plans for a year-round, domed stadium that could attract both professional football and baseball teams and even host large-scale concerts and smaller events, the publication reports.
The track has been a Chicago-area staple for nearly a century, opening in 1927.
It briefly shut down in 1998 and 1999, but it reopened in 2000 after Churchill Downs Incorporated purchased the track and rechristened it Arlington Park. It changed its name to Arlington International Racecourse in 2013.
According to officials, owners of the track will aim to relocate its racing license to another community in the state of Illinois.
“We are exploring potential options with the state and other constituents, and remain optimistic that we can find solutions that work for the state, local communities and the thousands of Illinoisans who make their living directly or indirectly through thoroughbred horse racing,” Carstanjen said.
According to the press release, the race track will host its full schedule of dates from April 30 to September 25. The sale is not expected to be completed before the racing calendar concludes, and the company says any sale is unlikely to impact the calendar.