Crain’s reported in April that the team would not deny it was interested in the track, which has been put up for sale by its owner, Churchill Downs, and is expected to close soon.
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Lightfoot said then that discussions were underway among the city, Bears and the Chicago Park District, which owns and operates the Bears’ current home, Soldier Field. Lightfoot did not give details but indicated the team was interested in certain unspecified improvements in its current lease.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told the Daily Herald earlier in the week that a potential move is “on the table.”
Crain’s reported in February there was no asking price for the property, which Churchill Downs bought as part of a $72 million stock deal to take control of the track. The company said then that it would hold its 2021 racing dates as planned through Sept. 25 and did not expect any sale of the property to close before the end of the season.
Calls to the Chicago Park District have not been returned. A Churchill Downs spokesman said in a statement the company is “honoring our confidentiality contract with the submitting parties by not confirming or discussing specifics.”
Rumors of a Bears move to the northwest suburbs have circulated on and off for decades but have so far been a nonstarter.
The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field runs until 2033, and moving before then might cost the NFL team some money, even though building a new stadium on the Arlington property would take several years. Beyond that, doing so would require the team to invest tens—and potentially hundreds—of millions of dollars of its own money, something it has not done previously.
On other hand, Soldier Field is small by NFL standards and totally open to the elements. That has kept the team and the city from trying to lure a Super Bowl, football’s top prize and an enormous media and economic draw.
Some have suggested doming Soldier Field or building a new stadium on the nearby One Central property. That idea has not taken root.
Crain’s reporter Danny Ecker contributed.
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