The Bears may be leaving Chicago. Or Soldier Field, at least.
The team announced that it signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property in the nearby suburb, The Athletic reported.
“We remain committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago and have advised the Bears that we remain open to discussions,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told The Athletic. “However, just as the Bears view this as a business decision, so does the city. This season, Soldier Field signed a major contract with the Chicago Fire and just last weekend Soldier Field hosted the Shamrock Series — both of which are lucrative for the Chicago Park District and local economy…. As for the Bears, the Mayor has said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open to engage the Bears.”
The Bears, who submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property back in June, will have to pay a penalty if they break their lease with Soldier Field. The team’s lease runs through 2033 and, if the lease is broken in 2026, they will have to pay $84 million to the city.
Chicago’s NPR station, WBEZ, recently reported that conflict is brewing between the Bears and the stadium’s owner, the Chicago Park District.
In an April meeting, the team’s president and CEO Ted Phillips “allegedly asked for engineering reports regarding the infrastructure” of the stadium. A few months later in June, Phillips said the Chicago Park District refused to “engage in good faith discussions” when the team inquired about creating a sportsbook near the stadium.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wanted the Bears to stay in the city and would work with the team to address their concerns, “but, I’ve got to do it in a way that is fiscally prudent and doesn’t preclude other uses in that stadium.”
Phillips said the purchase and sale agreement for the racecourse in Arlington will allow the team “to further evaluate the property and its potential.”
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes expressed excitement about the possibility of the team moving there and Phillips seems to share the sentiment. “We appreciate the support of Mayor Tom Hayes and the Village of Arlington Heights…. 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.”
[The Athletic] — Victoria Pruitt