Bears leaving Soldier Field? Illinois city one step closer to possibly stealing NFL team from downtown Chicago

The Chicago Bears made it pretty clear last week that the team is seriously considering

The Chicago Bears made it pretty clear last week that the team is seriously considering a possible move to Arlington Heights and this week, the Illinois suburb made it clear that it would be more than happy to welcome the Bears. 

The Arlington Heights village board approved a zoning change this week that will allow a football stadium to be built on the 326-acre chunk of land that the Bears made a bid for back on June 17. 

If the Bears are going to move out of Soldier Field anytime soon, a lot of things are going to have to happen and this was one of those things. If there was no zoning change in place, the Bears would have had no use for the land, but now, the team knows that a stadium can be built if they end up winning the bid for the property. 

The land is currently owned by Churchill Downs, which is the company that will make a decision on the winning bid. That fact that Churchill Downs owns the land is notable, because the company just announced a partnership with the Bears. 

According to the Daily Herald in Chicago, the Bears have agreed to a multi-year deal with Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois. The controlling stake in the casino is held by Churchill Downs, which owns 61% of the property. Normally, the Bears signing a sponsorship with a casino wouldn’t be huge news, but the fact that they just signed a deal with the company that will be picking the winning bid for the 326-acres of land that the Bears want definitely makes this notable. 

Based on recent events, it definitely seems like the Bears have one foot out the door in Chicago with their eyes on Arlington Heights, which sits roughly 30 miles away. 

Of course, there is at least one person who doesn’t think the Bears are actually going to move and that person is Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot. The mayor thinks this is all a negotiation tactic by the team in order to get the city to pitch in on the costs it’s going to take renovate Soldier Field. 

“The Bears are locked into a lease at Soldier Field until 2033,” Lightfoot said on June 17. “In addition, this announcement from the Bears comes in the midst of negotiations for improvements at Soldier Field. This is clearly a negotiating tactic that the Bears have used before.”

In a battle of mayors, the mayor of Arlington Heights, Tom Hayes, isn’t backing down. Hayes thinks the Bears are actually serious about moving. 

“I don’t think this is a negotiating tactic,” Hayes said this week, via the Chicago Tribune. “I do think the Bears are serious about this. It may not come to fruition, but I think they’re seriously considering this.”

The Bears are serious enough about moving that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t shoot down the possibility when asked about the situation on Wednesday. 

“I don’t know the answer to that question other than to know this is a really early stage to develop potentially an alternative,” Goodell told 670 The Score. “But I think a lot has to be done here. I know their commitment to the Chicago area is 110 percent, and that’s the most important thing to me. We have a long lease at Soldier Field.”

As for that lease that Goodell and Lightfoot both mentioned, Hayes isn’t very concerned about that. 

“I know there’s contracts involved and lease agreements,” Hayes said back in April. “But a good attorney will tell you, you can always get out of those. There might be a significant price involved, but I would think if they wanted to make it happen, they could make it happen.”

The Bears wouldn’t have bid on the property in Arlington Heights if they weren’t serious about moving and if they end up winning that bid, there’s a good chance they’ll end up leaving Soldier Field, where they’ve played since 1971.