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Bears Rumors: Arlington Park Approved for Stadium amid Relocation Buzz

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2021

Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

If the Chicago Bears are serious about moving out of Soldier Field and into a new stadium, they have at least one option to consider.

According to Robert McCoppin of the Chicago Tribune, Arlington Park, which is the location of Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Illinois, has been approved to accommodate a football stadium.

With the exception of playing in Champaign, Illinois, for one season in 2002 amid renovations, the Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971.

As part of a zoning vote held by local officials this week, it was determined that the Arlington Park site can be used for a football stadium, horse racing or casino gambling in the future.

The site is up for sale, and local officials are permitted to dictate what can replace the horse racing track should Churchill Downs, the owner, sell it.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the Bears' stadium situation Wednesday on 670 The Score:

"I don't know the answer to that question other than to know this is a really early stage to develop potentially an alternative. But I think a lot has to be done here. I know their commitment to the Chicago area is 110%, and that's the most important thing to me.

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"We have a long lease at Soldier Field. It's a great place. But we're all looking to the long term and trying to look at alternatives, and that's what the Bears are doing.

"But I think for fans right now, I wouldn't be focused on that. There's a lot that has to go into this. Right now, let's enjoy the '21 season. A lot of excitement for the Bears."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed her belief last week that the Bears are trying to use Arlington Park as leverage to negotiate more favorable terms at Soldier Field.

Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District rather than the team, and Lightfoot noted the Bears are locked into a lease through 2033.

Despite Lightfoot's opinion, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes suggested the interest is real: "I don't think this is a negotiating tactic. I do think the Bears are serious about this. It may not come to fruition, but I think they're seriously considering this."

Hayes noted the Bears' not owning their stadium "diminishes the value of their franchise," lending potential legitimacy to the team's desire to play at Arlington Park, which is 35 miles northwest of Chicago.

As well, Soldier Field has the lowest capacity of any NFL stadium at 61,500. A new stadium could see that capacity increased and include either a dome or retractable roof, which would allow for year-round events.

In May, Forbes listed the Bears as the 18th-most valuable franchise in sports at $3.55 billion, meaning they may be equipped to build their own stadium.

The Bears have reached the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and may have found their franchise quarterback in the 2021 draft in Ohio State standout Justin Fields.

A great deal of excitement and anticipation surrounds the franchise, and a brand-new, team-owned stadium would undoubtedly add to it.

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