Bears sign purchase agreement for Arlington Park

The Bears have signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property in suburban Arlington Heights, Ill., The Athletic has learned. The team is expected to announce the news Wednesday morning.

“We are not surprised by this move. 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’s office said in a statement to The Athletic. “However, just as the Bears view this as a business decision so does the City. This season, Soldier Field signed a major contract with the Chicago Fire and just last weekend Soldier Field hosted the Shamrock Series — both of which are lucrative for the Chicago Park District and local economy.

“These examples and others demonstrate that Soldier Field remains a very sought-after venue, and, as the Mayor has said many times, overall, the City and Park District must explore all options to both enhance the visitor and fan experience at Soldier Field year-round and maximize revenues. Therefore, we must do what’s in the best economic interests of our taxpayers and maximize the financial benefits at the important asset that is Soldier Field. As for the Bears, the Mayor has said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open to engage the Bears.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot added in a tweet later Tuesday, “My statement still stands on the Bears: my admin remains committed to continuing the work to keep the team in Chicago. As I have said numerous times, our door in City Hall remains open.”

On June 17, the Bears submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property.

“It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future,” team president Ted Phillips said in a statement in June. “If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential.”

The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears would have to pay $84 million to the city if they broke the lease in 2026. The financial penalty decreases after 2026.

“($84 million) represents just 3 percent of the $2.2 billion average cost of the league’s seven newest stadiums,” the report stated.

At the time, Lightfoot referred to the Bears’ bid as “a negotiating tactic.”

“As a season ticketholder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team,” she said. “And like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”

Last week, WBEZ released two reports reflecting the conflict between the Bears and the Chicago Park District, which owns Soldier Field. In an April meeting, Phillips “allegedly asked for engineering reports regarding the infrastructure” of Soldier Field. Michael Kelly, the Chicago Park District superintendent, emailed Phillips accusing him of a “propensity for historical statements.”

In early June, Phillips accused the Chicago Park District of refusing “to engage in good faith discussions” when the Bears reached out about the creation of a sportsbook near Soldier Field.

During a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lightfoot said, “I am a Bears fan. 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.

“We are evaluating ways in which we can enhance the fan experience at Soldier Field. … I know that it can be better. I’ve been to other stadiums across the country where the fan experience is far superior to what we have at Soldier Field.”

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