Chicago Bears: What You Need to Know About the Soldier Field, Arlington Heights Move

Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement that closing the deal was the “critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential.” Churchill Downs announced the sale price was $197.2 million and said it expected to close the sale in late 2022 or early 2023.

Soldier Field, which is owned by the Chicago Park District, has 61,500 fans, the smallest capacity in the NFL. The Bears would also be able to develop the 326-acre site surrounding the stadium with shopping, dining and entertainment.

Here’s what you need to know about Soldier Field’s potential move, with City Hall’s response to Arlington Heights.

With his views of the Chicago skyline and games enhanced by wind-driven snow, the 97-year-old stadium is just as much a part of the Bears identity as tenacious linebackers or underperforming quarterbacks. The team’s loyalty to the lakeside sanctuary has long been a point of civic pride, giving fans something to brag about even when – especially when – they couldn’t brag about the team itself.

Still, the legendary site can no longer seem to compete with the so-called fan experience marketed by other teams.

However, fans were exponentially more understanding, and some even expressed a draft-day-like optimism that better days are ahead. With a tentative deal unlikely to close before the end of 2022, they openly dreamed of shorter concessions, easier parking, better tailgating opportunities and a domed stadium that protected them from biting winter winds.

Soldier Field under construction on February 26, 2003 in Chicago. (SCOTT STRAZZANTE / CHICAGO STAND)

The road from Soldier Field to Arlington International Racecourse is 50.2 miles and years in the making, marking it as possibly the longest and highest scoring drive in Chicago Bears history.

Much has changed in the decades since Chicago last confronted the issue of a new playground for the Bears, before the team settled in a massively remodeled and reconfigured Soldier Field in 2003 after years of negotiations involving the city and state. goods.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, center, attends pregame ceremonies for a game between the Bears and Vikings at Soldier Field on September 29, 2019. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Die-hard Chicago Bears fan Mayor Lori Lightfoot must sympathize with rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ rough day in Cleveland: Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett flees, only to be knocked to the ground – again – by linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

The mayor faces a similarly intimidating set of obstacles in her attempt to stop the Bears from leaving for Arlington Heights: invent a miracle and billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars to convince them to stay, further crippling the city’s finances. Or go down in history as the mayor who lost a National Football League co-founder to the suburbs.

The McCaskey family who own the Bears have been silenced by the pursuit of a new home, and the Bears remain a private company, leaving many of the questions about how the team could fund a potentially multi-billion dollar stadium unanswered.

What’s clearer is the potential cost to the city of Chicago if Soldier Field’s tenant moves out, and how much the Bears may have to cough up to break their lease with the city.

Cardinal Mundelein, from left, Father William R. Griffin, and CG Guill look out over Soldier Field in 1925 in preparation for the upcoming 28th International Eucharistic Congress.

Cardinal Mundelein, from left, Father William R. Griffin, and CG Guill look out over Soldier Field in 1925 in preparation for the upcoming 28th International Eucharistic Congress. (Chicago Herald and Examiner)

Chicago’s lakeside stadium has hosted a variety of people in its nearly 100 years—footballers and circus performers, civil rights politicians and activists, observers of religious and cultural milestones, the Rolling Stones and Special Olympics supporters with megaphones .

Bears fans arrive for a game against the Bengals at Soldier Field on September 19, 2021.

Bears fans arrive for a game against the Bengals at Soldier Field on September 19, 2021. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

The news of the Chicago Bears’ purchase of the Arlington Heights Racecourse property proves that they are serious about leaving Soldier Field. The sooner the better, writes Paul Sullivan.

Wrigley Field served as the original home location for the team when it moved to Chicago in 1921 and remained there until 1970. The team almost 70% won by his home games during that period.

But the Bears were forced to find a new home after the American Football League merged with the National Football League and needed stadiums for at least 50,000 fans. The team played its last game at Wrigley Field on Dec 13, 1970, defeating the Packers 35-17.

The view of Arlington International Racecourse on June 24, 2021.

The view of Arlington International Racecourse on June 24, 2021. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Hotels, restaurants, bars and other entertainment are perfect for a football stadium, said Jason Wurtz, executive vice president at commercial real estate firm NAI Hiffman. But the size of the property means it’s probably too big for just one use, and there should be enough people around to patronize businesses during days off and off-season, he said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor JB Pritzker listen to speakers outside the United Center's mass vaccination site on March 9, 2021.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor JB Pritzker listen to speakers outside the United Center’s mass vaccination site on March 9, 2021. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Governor JB Pritzker said Thursday it is up to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and leaders in the northwestern suburb of Arlington Heights to determine whether local taxpayers should help pay to build a new stadium for the Chicago Bears.

Pritzker did not unequivocally rule out state subsidies for a new stadium, but said no one from the football team had approached him.

People are crossing the Metra tracks in downtown Arlington Heights on September 29, 2021.

People are crossing the Metra tracks in downtown Arlington Heights on September 29, 2021. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Just days after a farewell fireworks display marked the end of a legendary era of thoroughbred horse racing in Arlington Heights, residents woke up Wednesday to news that in a few years the Chicago Bears could make the northwestern suburb their home.

The Bears’ move is not a foregone conclusion. And some in the village may not want to have too high of expectations. About 50 years ago, the Bears came up with the idea of ​​moving there.

A view of Soldier Field, home of the Bears, showing the Chicago skyline on September 29, 2021.

View of Soldier Field, home of the Bears, with the Chicago skyline on September 29, 2021. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

A possible role for the state in the Bears’ possible move from the lakeshore to the northwestern suburbs has yet to be formally discussed, but any request from the team for financial aid would likely prove a tough sell, as Illinois the coronavirus pandemic emerges and continues to grapple with chronic fiscal problems.

Democratic state representative Kam Buckner, a former University of Illinois football player whose district is home to Soldier Field, called Wednesday’s announcement “extremely discouraging.”

After nearly a century of thoroughbred racing, Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights closed its gates to the sport for the last time on Saturday – and the future of the venue remains uncertain.

Racetrack fans, staff and even jockeys all agreed it was a sad day at Arlington Park. Horses walked the last corner, fans put on their fancy hats and placed their final bets as the staff faced an uncertain future. Many shared the memories of family fun and spectacular fireworks, sunny Saturday afternoons with friends who won or lost a lot, and the grandeur of a racetrack like no other.

Leave a Comment