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Bears Sign $197M Purchase Agreement For Arlington Park Racetrack, But Moving From Soldier Field Not A Done Deal

Arlington International Racecourse

In a move that would see the team leave its home since the 1970s, the Chicago Bears have signed an agreement to purchase Arlington International Racecourse in northwest suburban Arlington Heights from Churchill Downs Inc. for more than $197M, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The potential deal, first reported by The Athletic Tuesday night, sets the stage for the franchise to leave Soldier Field, although a lot has to happen before the Bears leave. The team has a lease that runs through 2033, and financing new stadiums is notoriously difficult. The 2002 renovation and expansion of Soldier Field, still the National Football League's smallest stadium, cost $690M, with taxpayers picking up at least $432M, according to the Tribune.

But Arlington Heights officials say the 326-acre site could possibly host an entertainment complex that will draw visitors year-round, a plus for investors who wouldn't touch a project that only hosts a few home games per year. 

“There is a long way to go as we begin this journey and many issues for the community to discuss, but the Village is committed to working with the Bears organization and all stakeholders to explore this opportunity for Arlington Heights and the northwest suburban region,” Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said in a statement.    

Officials from the Bears and the municipality said they don't expect the transaction to close until late 2022 or even 2023. 

At a separate news conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sounded philosophical about the Bears possibly abandoning the city for the suburbs.  

“Life goes on,” she said during a Wednesday news conference. “This is a very valuable asset. I’m going to keep working to keep them here in Chicago. I think that’s in everybody’s interest if we do it. But if they choose to go elsewhere, we’re going to maximize that asset and we’re going to bring great entertainment value to the lakefront at Soldier Field.”