The Chicago Bears have inked a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse site in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, according to a report in The Athletic, an online sports journal.
The team is expected to announce the news Wednesday morning, according to the report, which doesn’t indicate its sourcing.
Contacted by The Athletic for a comment, a City Hall spokesperson said, “We are not surprised by this move.” The spokesperson added that Mayor Lori Lightfoot remains “open to discussions” about keeping the Bears at Soldier Field, where the team has a lease with the Chicago Park District that runs through 2033.
The mayor appeared to confirm gist of The Athletic’s reporting in a tweet late Tuesday night—while reiterating her hope to keep negotiations open:
In a Sept. 20 meeting with Crain’s editors and reporters, the topic of Soldier Field came up when the mayor was asked what recent conversations she and aides have had with Bears ownership, who sparked a flurry of chatter earlier this year when the team announced it was bidding to acquire the site of Arlington Park.
Those talks have not proceeded very far, Lightfoot said, indicating she’d like the team to present its wish list and for her staff to pursue the issue.
“I’d love to have a more fulsome discussion with the Bears,” she said. “I’d love to be able to keep the Bears in Chicago. But we need to have a deal that makes sense for taxpayers.”
On Sept. 20, WBEZ reported the Bears organization and the Lightfoot administration were at loggerheads over rejected efforts to open a sports betting lounge at Soldier Field.
The Athletic report did not specify the terms of the purchase agreement the Bears have reportedly signed for the Arlington Heights location. It’s not the first time the team has expressed interest in a suburban alternative to its cramped—by NFL standards—digs within the city’s Museum Campus. Since the 1970s, the team has expressed interest in a variety of suburban properties from time to time, with 1995 being an especially active year for such scouting: That year, the Bears announced they had acquired an option to purchase land in Hoffman Estates and also said management had looked at locations in Aurora and Northwest Indiana.
A threat to move to Elk Grove Village in 1998 preceded a commitment from the city to remodel Soldier Field for $587 million in 2002.
Arlington International held its last horserace on Sept. 25 after track owner Churchill Downs announced in June that it was evaluating purchase offers for the 326-acre property.