(670 The Score) When it comes to Arlington Park’s future, the Bears remain the “elephant in the room,” Arlington Heights mayor Tom Hayes said.
“We knew from the start that the Bears were the elephant in the room,” Hayes said on the Parkins & Spiegel Show on Tuesday afternoon. “So I told our people when we learned of the sale, we need to find out what the Bears might be interested in doing. So we reached out to the Bears’ front office with a letter just advising them that we’re here to answer any questions that they have and be happy to explore the possibility with them.”
Hayes’ comments came on the same day that brought what he called a “soft deadline” for interested parties to submit proposals for the redevelopment of the Arlington Park property, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. Arlington Racecourse sits on 326 acres of property, and it has been the home to horse racing since 1927. Some groups are still fighting to keep it the home to horse racing, while the Bears have been connected to a potential move to Arlington Heights, with talks first really heating up in the 1970s and popping up in the decades since as well.
The Bears confirmed they received the letter from Arlington Heights leaders but haven’t communicated beyond that, Hayes said.
“We have not heard anything definite,” Hayes said of the village’s communication with the Bears. “We have not heard that they’re not interested. Until we hear that, we’re going to consider it on the table.”
Asked if Arlington Park and the village were being used as leverage for the Bears to get what they want from the city of Chicago regarding the team’s lease of Soldier Field, Hayes acknowledged that’s something he and other village leaders are aware of, but they view the situation through a different prism.
“That’s always possible, but we look to the positive aspects of it – that they’re even considering Arlington Heights is a real feather in our cap,” Hayes said. “This is a real prime piece of real estate located not just in Arlington Heights but in the northwest suburbs where a lot of the Bears fan base is. I know there are a lot of people who would be very excited, including myself, to see the Bears in Arlington Heights.”
There are several aspects of Soldier Field that make is far less appealing than other stadiums in the NFL. It seats 61,500, the fewest of any in the NFL, and it’s difficult to navigate to. Soldier Field is the oldest stadium in the NFL, having opened in 1924, and is outdated in some ways despite renovations about two decades ago. It also doesn’t have a roof, which would likely be needed for Chicago to ever host the Super Bowl.
The Bears lease of Soldier Field runs through 2033.
“I don’t know the specifics of it, but I know where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Hayes said. “So if the Bears and the NFL in particular are really interested in this move, it can happen.”