Bears move closer to leaving Soldier Field for the suburbs

Chicago Bears

FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2018, file photo, fans wait before an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and New York Jets at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Chicago Bears announced the signing Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, of an agreement to purchase Arlington Park racetrack in Arlington Heights, the latest step toward a move from their longtime home, Soldier Field in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears took a major step toward moving out of their longtime home at Soldier Field and into the suburbs by signing a purchase agreement for Arlington Park about 30 miles northwest of the city.

“We are excited to have executed a Purchase and Sale Agreement for the Arlington Park property,” Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement. “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.”

Churchill Downs Incorporated, which owns the property officially known as Arlington International Racecourse, announced that the sale price was $197.2 million.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a tweet Tuesday night that the city “remains committed to continuing to work to keep the team in Chicago.” Her office issued a separate statement saying it was not surprised by the announcement but has informed the Bears that it remains “open to discussions” to keep the team in Chicago.

The Bears, who have played at the lakefront stadium since 1971 after moving from Wrigley Field, have raised the possibility of moving over the years. One big factor is that the stadium, which is owned by the Chicago Park District, holds fewer fans — 61,500 — than any other stadium in the NFL.

If the Bears do move, they would be able to develop more than 300 acres around the stadium with dining, shopping and entertainment — something other teams such as the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Charges and Las Vegas Raiders have done to add revenue.

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