In light of recent rumblings that the Chicago Bears could potentially explore a new stadium site in suburban Arlington Heights, the team announced Thursday that it has submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse.
The owners of the horse racing venue had announced earlier this year that they intend to sell the property for redevelopment, and the Bears’ interest in the venue will only further fuel speculation that the team could potentially build a new stadium on the site.
“We recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property,” President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement. “It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”
Earlier this week, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said that the option for the Bears to move to the community was still “on the table,” but declined to get into specifics.
“It’s still on the table, to my understanding, but it’s a complete, definite ‘maybe,’” he told the Daily Herald. “I’m not in a position where I could say it’s a definite ‘go’ or ‘no go.’”
The mayor says that there are "fewer than 10" redevelopment plans that have been submitted for the site.
The Bears renovated Soldier Field in 2002, and are locked into a lease at the historic stadium through at least 2033, according to officials.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the situation Thursday, acknowledging that while the lakefront site is “challenging,” the team is locked into a lease, and she is confident that the NFL won’t let the team break it.
“A couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033, and the NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” she said. “I was just on a call with senior leadership in the last two weeks. So there are things that they’d like to see differently at Soldier Field, and we want to do whatever we can to accommodate it. It’s a great iconic site, but it’s a challenging site.”
The Bears previously discussed the possibility of building a stadium in Arlington Heights in the 1980s, but ultimately made the decision to renovate Soldier Field, with the state of Illinois raising funds to help the team do so. The Bears played at the University of Illinois football stadium for one season before debuting the new-look Soldier Field in 2003.