Stay or Go? Mayor Lori Lightfoot No Longer Laughing Off Chicago Bears’ Interest In Arlington Park Site

The McCaskey family’s exploration of a possible NFL stadium site in the suburbs has gotten the attention of Chicago’s mayor.

Lori Lightfoot, who originally laughed at the threat of the Bears relocating from Soldier Field, told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board that the city is evaluating ways it can make the 97-year-old stadium more acceptable over the long term.

But Lightfoot conceded the city of Chicago is limited both by its already stressed financial resources and the land-locked site of the stadium. 

“I am a Bears fan,’’ Lightfoot told the Sun-Times in a zoom interview on Monday. “I want the Bears to stay in the city of Chicago. And we are willing to work with them to try to address their concerns. But, I’ve got to do it in a way that is fiscally prudent and doesn’t preclude other uses in that stadium … That stadium sits on a museum campus.’’

Churchill Downs Inc. has placed the 326-acre parcel of land that houses Arlington International Racecourse for sale. It is being closed as a horse track after 94 years of racing. 

The Bears are owned by the heirs of George Halas, with 98-year-old Virginia McCaskey atop the organization structure. George McCaskey, one of Halas’ grandchildren, has been the team’s chairman since 2010.

Ted Phillips, the team’s president and CEO, confirmed in June the Bears have put in a bid for the property.

“We recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property,’’ Phillips said in a statement. “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.’’

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