By Matt Zahn and Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — Could the Bears be moving to the burbs?

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The rumors are true. The Chicago Bears placed a bid to buy Arlington International Racecourse.

The team released a statement that said they submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property.

In a tweet, Ted Phillips, Bears President and CEO said “it’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization.”

The facility was forced to close for a couple months last year due to the pandemic, but resumed horse races in July.

The Bears have been playing at Soldier Field since 1971. 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 hold more than 70,000.

CBS 2’s Matt Zahn reported Arlington Heights has been a long rumored potential moving spot. But now that Churchill Downs has put Arlington Park property up for sale, it does become more of a real possibility.

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.

Last month, CBS Sports reported the team was “seriously considering” a move out of Chicago.

A Bears executive didn’t deny that the team was mulling a possible move when asked about it by Crain’s Chicago Business. The race track in Arlington Heights is about 30 miles away from Soldier Field, so Bears fans in Chicago would still be within easy traveling distance of a potential new stadium.

Even if the Bears want to move though, it’s not going to be so easy. As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently pointed out, the team has a lease at Solider Field for at least the next 13 seasons.

“I’ve seen a couple of reports [of a possible move] but a couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033 and the NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” Lightfoot said.

 

Back in May, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes revealed the Bears were “seriously considering” a move to the site.

“I know there’s contracts involved and lease agreements,” Hayes said. “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.”

It seems the Bears are hoping to get some renovations done at Solider Field and it’s possible they want the city to help pay for the project. Lightfoot admitted to talking to the Bears in recent weeks, but didn’t specify whether the team asked the city to help with anything.

“It’s a great, iconic site,” Lightfoot said of Soldier Field. “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.”

Statement from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:

Our city is home to some of the world’s finest sports teams who have played a vital role in the city’s re-opening. As part of the city’s recovery, many organizations are doubling down on their commitment to Chicago, and we expect the Chicago Bears to follow suit. 

The Bears are locked into a lease at Soldier Field until 2033. 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.

As a season ticketholder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team. And like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.

 

The official statement from the Village of Arlington Heights:

The Village of Arlington Heights was made aware earlier today that the Chicago Bears have submitted a bid for the purchase of the Arlington International Racecourse Property site as a potential home for a new stadium for the team.

Tom Hayes, Mayor of Arlington Heights added:

We welcome the Chicago Bears interest in the Arlington Park site. It is a one of a kind location and we are glad that the Bears ownership sees its tremendous potential. The Village will be working with the listing broker to closely review proposals by all potential users in the coming months. Whether the final purchaser is the Chicago Bears or someone else, our goal is to determine which concept will be most beneficial to Arlington Heights from a long-term economic and community development perspective.

The Village will be working the property owner, broker, and all potential purchasers over the next several months to determine which uses would be best for the Arlington Heights community.

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CBS Sports contributed to this report.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff