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The Athletic reported today that the Chicago Bears have signed a purchase agreement to obtain the Arlington International Racecourse property in Arlington Heights, Ill.
The 326-acre property will cost $197.2 million and is located about 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. The Bears have been looking to move out of Soldier Field despite resistance from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot. The Bears initially announced their plans to purchase the property on June 17, to which Lightfoot viewed it as a negotiating tactic.
“As a season ticketholder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team,” Lightfoot 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.”
The Bears have made the deal official and will look to move, although hurdles remain. Should the Bears look to break their lease with Chicago before 2026, the Chicago Tribune reports that they would owe $84 million to the city. The current lease ends in 2033 and the penalty would decrease every year until then, according to the report.
Lightfoot’s office sent a statement to The Athletic, saying that they would still like to work to find a solution to keep the team in Chicago.
“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 said. “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.”
Soldier Field has been home to the Bears since 1971. The stadium underwent a full rebuild in 2002 and reopened for the 2003 season. Despite being in the third most populated city in the U.S., Soldier Field has a capacity of 61,500. That is the lowest in the NFL.
With the Rams/Chargers and Raiders opening multi-billion-dollar stadiums in the past season, you can bet the Bears will be looking to construct something like that of their own. Despite its somewhat recent renovation, Soldier Field still looks and feels outdated to many fans. The city of Chicago has also never hosted a Super Bowl, something that would potentially happen if a futuristic facility were built in the near future.