The Bears formally placed a bid to purchase the property occupied by Arlington International Racecourse, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
Arlington Park, which is run by Churchill Downs Inc., is currently for sale and is expected to be demolished by its next owner. The Bears' lease on Soldier Field runs through 2033.
"We recently submitted a bit to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property," Bears team president Ted Phillips said in a statement. "It's our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we're doing what's best for our organization and it's future. If selected, this step allows us to further evaluate the property and its potential."
The Bears have played at Soldier Field since 1971. However, the facility is owned by the Chicago Park District and not the team.
Arlington Park, which is located 30 miles from downtown Chicago in Arlington Heights, is running what's expected to be its last year of horse racing. The property runs alongside a Metra train line that connects to the city and is located near multiple expressways.
On Tuesday, Arlington Heights mayor Tom Hayes joined the Parkins & Spiegel Show to discuss the Bears' interest in relocating to Arlington Park. Hayes was asked about the seriousness of the Bears' bid and whether they could be using the site as potential leverage for the organization to get what it wants from the city in regards to Soldier Field.
“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.”
Soldier Field holds a capacity of 61,500, which makes it the smallest stadium in the NFL.
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged in May the troubles for the Bears in Soldier Field.
"It's a great, iconic site," Lightfoot said to reporters. "But it's a challenging site, and I think it's incumbent on us as a city to step up and look at ways in which we can make sure that the Bears fans, but also the Bears as an organization, have the best opportunities to maximize the fan experience and, of course, maximize revenues."
The Bears' statement Thursday marked the team's first public comments on a potential move from Soldier Field since before the site underwent a $400-million reconstruction project in 2002.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.