Bears finalize $197M deal to buy Arlington Heights site

NFL team bought former racecourse for new potential $5B stadium project

Bears president Kevin Warren with Arlington International Racecourse
Bears president Kevin Warren with Arlington International Racecourse (Getty, Sea Cow CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Arlington Heights and the Chicago Bears reached another first down marker, with a $5 billion stadium development plan still to gain.

The NFL team has closed the deal to buy the former Arlington International Racecourse in the northwest suburb for $197 million, the Chicago Tribune reported. Despite the sale, the team emphasized that its stated plan to develop a $5 billion new stadium and surrounding mixed-use entertainment district will only be pursued if the team is able to secure certain property tax limits.

“I look forward to leaning into the stadium development project,” the new Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said during an introductory news conference at Halas Hall. “But I think the biggest thing we can do is to make sure we’re methodical and detailed and we take the time to plan it properly.”

The team sent out an open letter, announcing the closing of the purchase from longtime owner and horse racing company Churchill Downs. “Last fall, we released an open letter confirming the team had reached an agreement for the purpose of acquiring 326 acres of property in Arlington Heights to secure the potential of beginning a new and exciting chapter for the Bears, our fans, the Chicagoland community, and the State of Illinois,” the letter reads. “This week, we took another step toward realizing that vision by closing on the Arlington Park property.”

In November, the Arlington Heights village board unanimously approved a predevelopment agreement with the NFL squad for the project that covered future zoning changes and public financing that the team requested, without guaranteeing the provision of any money or tax breaks.

Last month, state lawmakers advanced a bill that created a fund of $400 million to attract large businesses to the state, and inserted specific language barring professional sports teams that move from within Illinois from receiving any benefits from it.

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The team announced plans to buy the property in September 2021 with the intention of building a new stadium. Team officials were spurred to make the purchase to consider leaving the outdated and uncovered Soldier Field in Chicago in favor of building a new facility that would better accommodate events like a Super Bowl or NCAA basketball championships.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is still looking forward to engaging the Bears on investing into a revamp of Soldier Field that could keep the team at its longtime lakefront stadium, and the city was previously prevented from direct negotiations due to legal provisions of the team’s option to purchase.

“Now that the deal has been completed, we look forward to negotiating and convincing the Bears that the team’s best future remains in our beloved city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said in a statement.


 — Victoria Pruitt 

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