Chicago Mayor Bears Down On Keeping NFL Team From Moving To Arlington Park

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is willing to work with Chicago Bears management to seek improvements to Soldier Field, home to the NFL team since 1971, in order to avert a move to a new stadium at Arlington Park racetrack in the city’s northwest suburbs.

The Bears are among several entities bidding to purchase Arlington Park from publicly traded  Churchill Downs Inc., which is majority owner of the Rivers Casino about 11 miles away. One of the other bidders, a group led by former Arlington Park president Roy Arnold, hopes to keep racing alive at Arlington while developing some of the property. No other bidders have expressed an interest in continuing racing at the historic track.

The 2021 Arlington Park meet closes this Saturday, Sept. 25. The track did not seek racing dates in 2022.

When the Bears confirmed in June they made an offer to buy Arlington to pursue a new stadium, Lightfoot downplayed the possibility of the Bears leaving Soldier Field, where they have a lease that runs through 2033. The 62,000-seat lakefront stadium, the smallest in the NFL, is owned by the Chicago Park District. It was renovated nearly 20 years ago at a cost of over $600 million to the city but is no match for some of the NFL’s new stadiums, including So-Fi – home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers – built at a cost of $5.5 billion on the old Hollywood Park racetrack property in Inglewood, Calif.

When the Bears said they were looking to move to Arlington Park, Lightfoot chided them to focus more on “putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”

In comments to the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday, Lightfoot said she is willing to work with the team on expansion and improvements to Soldier Field in a “fiscally-prudent way.”

Lightfoot wants the stadium to generate year-round revenue for Chicago outside of Bears games and would like to improve the experience for fans.

“I am a Bears fan. I want the Bears to stay in the city of Chicago,” she said. “”And we are willing to work with them to try to address their concerns. … We are evaluating ways in which we can enhance the fan experience at Soldier Field. … I know that it can be better.”

Read more at Chicago Sun-Times

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