The Chicago Bears, who submitted a bid to acquire Arlington International Racecourse earlier this summer, have reportedly signed an agreement to make that purchase, potentially taking a step toward building a new stadium at the site.
According to Scott Powers of The Athletic, the Bears reached an agreement with the owners of the Arlington Heights property, and are expected to announce the move on Wednesday morning.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office confirmed the news, saying that they are “not surprised” by the decision.
“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 said.
The mayor’s office cited new contracts signed with Chicago Fire FC and continuing agreements with Notre Dame for the Shamrock Series as events that showcase the appeal of Soldier Field.
The owners of the horse racing venue had announced earlier this year that they intend to sell the property for redevelopment, and recently held what will likely be the final weekend of racing at the iconic venue.
Earlier this year, the Bears were one of several interested parties that submitted bids for the property, with the likelihood being that they would use the site to build a new stadium.
“We recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property,” President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement at the time. “It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”
Officials in Arlington Heights paved the way for a stadium project with a vote earlier this summer.
The biggest stumbling block for any potential Bears relocation is their lease with the city of Chicago at Soldier Field, which runs through 2033. The team could opt out of the lease in 2026, with a financial penalty of more than $80 million to do so.
Lightfoot has repeatedly said that she is committed to keeping the Bears in Chicago, expressing a willingness to work with the team on potential renovations to the lakefront stadium.
Earlier this year, Lightfoot said that while the lakefront site is “challenging,” the team is locked into a lease, and she is confident that the NFL won’t let the team break it.
“A couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033, and the NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” she said. “I was just on a call with senior leadership in the last two weeks. So there are things that they’d like to see differently at Soldier Field, and we want to do whatever we can to accommodate it. It’s a great iconic site, but it’s a challenging site.”
The Bears previously discussed the possibility of building a stadium in Arlington Heights in the 1980s, but ultimately made the decision to renovate Soldier Field, with the state of Illinois raising funds to help the team do so. The Bears played at the University of Illinois football stadium for one season before debuting the new-look Soldier Field in 2003.