The Bears announced Wednesday morning they have agreed to purchase the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights, but stopped short of promising to build a new stadium there.
The purchase will take time to complete, similar to closing on a house, but Churchill Downs selected the Bears’ bid and is moving toward finalizing the sale.
“Finalizing the PSA was the critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential,” team president Ted Phillips said. “Much work remains to be completed, including working closely with the Village of Arlington Heights and surrounding communities, before we can close on this transaction.
“Our goal is to chart a path forward that allows our team to thrive on the field, Chicagoland to prosper from this endeavor and the Bears organization to be ensured a strong future. We will never stop working toward delivering Bears fans the very best experience.”
On Tuesday night, the Bears called Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office and informed her that they signed a purchase agreement to buy the 326-acre property. Arlington International Racecourse held its last horse race on Saturday afternoon.
In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said late Tuesday that “we remain committed to continuing to work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions.” She then touted other uses for Soldier Field — the MLS’ Chicago Fire began play there this season and Notre Dame just played Wisconsin there on Saturday.
When the Bears bid on the property in June, they said they planned to “further evaluate the property and its potential” if it was accepted. They will begin that process now, and can still negotiate with the city to remain on the lakefront.
Lightfoot said in June the Bears were “locked into a lease” at Soldier Field through 2033. She changed her tone in an interview with the Sun-Times earlier this month, saying she was willing to discuss with the Bears ways to keep them downtown.
The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971, and have flirted with potential suburban stadium sites ever since. The Bears’ talks with Arlington Heights, though, officially moved past the flirting stage Wednesday.