Village ‘welcomes’ interest; Lightfoot calls it ‘noise’

The Chicago Bears confirmed Thursday the organization has submitted a bid to purchase the 326-acre Arlington Park property.

“It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future,” team President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement. “If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”

The brief statement, sent by a team spokesman Thursday afternoon, comes after a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for interested parties to submit initial plans and offers for the racetrack at Euclid and Wilke roads in Arlington Heights.

Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., the Louisville, Kentucky-based owner of Arlington Park, said Tuesday their real estate firm received “strong proposals from numerous parties” for redevelopment of the iconic racetrack. They declined to comment further after the Bears announcement Thursday.

Arlington Heights officials said they were made aware of the Bears’ bid earlier Thursday.

“We welcome the Chicago Bears’ interest in the Arlington Park site,” Mayor Tom Hayes said in a statement. “It is a one of a kind location and we are glad that the Bears ownership sees its tremendous potential.

“The village will be working with the listing broker to closely review proposals by all potential users in the coming months,” Hayes said. “Whether the final purchaser is the Chicago Bears or someone else, our goal is to determine which concept will be most beneficial to Arlington Heights from a long-term economic and community development perspective.”



But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the NFL franchise’s announcement a “negotiating tactic that the Bears have used before.” The team’s front office is in the midst of discussions with city officials over improvements at Soldier Field. The team has a lease at the park district-owned lakefront stadium until 2033.

“Our city is home to some of the world’s finest sports teams who have played a vital role in the city’s reopening. As part of the city’s recovery, many organizations are doubling down on their commitment to Chicago, and we expect the Chicago Bears to follow suit,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

“As a season ticketholder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team,” Lightfoot wrote later. “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,” she said.

A Bears move to Arlington Heights has been long rumored, since George “Papa Bear” Halas first made a pitch to relocate in the 1970s.

And a team spokesman, of late, hasn’t denied interest when asked about a possible Arlington Park move, adding further fuel to the speculation.

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