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Bears Sign Purchase Agreement For Arlington Park Property; Lightfoot Says City Will Work To Keep Team In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Bears have signed a purchase agreement for the Arlington International Racecourse property in Arlington Heights, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her administration will go on working to keep the team in Chicago.

The Chicago Bears and the Village of Arlington Heights released a statement Wednesday morning, confirming the team signed an agreement to purchase the Arlington Park property and possibly build a new stadium there.

Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips released the following statement:

"We are excited to have executed a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) for the Arlington Park property. We are grateful to Churchill Downs Incorporated for their efforts to reach this point. We also appreciate the support of Mayor Tom Hayes and the Village of Arlington Heights. Finalizing the PSA was the critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential. Much work remains to be completed, including working closely with the Village of Arlington Heights and surrounding communities, before we can close on this transaction. Our goal is to chart a path forward that allows our team to thrive on the field, Chicagoland to prosper from this endeavor, and the Bears organization to be ensured a strong future. We will never stop working toward delivering Bears fans the very best experience. We will continue to provide updates on our progress at the appropriate time."

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes also confirmed the Purchase and Sale Agreement signed to buy the Arlington Park property.

"There is a long way to go as we begin this journey, and many issues for the community to discuss, but the Village is committed to working with the Bears organization and all stakeholders to explore this opportunity for Arlington Heights and the northwest suburban region," Hayes said.

In a tweet Tuesday night, Mayor Lightfoot wrote: "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 released a statement saying they submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington racetrack property.

In a tweet at that time, Phillips said "it's our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we're doing what's best for our organization."

The racetrack was forced to close for a couple months last year due to the pandemic, but resumed horse races in July. But Churchill Downs announced in February that the racetrack would be going up for sale, and its last horseraces were held this past weekend.

The Bears have been playing at Soldier Field since 1971 – they shared Wrigley Field with the Cubs before that. The most recent stadium renovation took place in 2003.

The stadium went through massive renovations nearly two decades ago at a cost of over $600 million. Even with the upgrade, Soldier Field still has a capacity of only 61,500, smallest in the NFL. There are 13 stadiums that hold more than 70,000.

CBS 2's Matt Zahn reported in June that Arlington Heights has been a long rumored potential moving spot.

Just the size of the property at 326-acres, compared to the 17 acre park Soldier Field sits on, makes it an attractive spot, along with easy access to a Metra stop and the expressway.

In May, CBS Sports reported the team was "seriously considering" a move out of Chicago.

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