Thu. Jun 8th, 2023

The NFL’s Chicago Bears announced June 17 the team has submitted a bid to acquire Arlington Intercontinental Racecourse from Churchill Downs Inc. to “further assess the property and its opportunity.”

A three-sentence statement from Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said it is the Bears “obligation to examine each and every feasible choice to make certain we are executing what’s finest for our corporation and its long run.

“If picked, this move lets us to even more assess the residence and its possible.”

The only other publicly uncovered bid for the assets is from a group led by former Arlington president Roy Arnold, with backing from the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which aims to maintain racing at the northwest suburban Chicago observe. Other bids could have been built but not declared.

Any “progress only” bids presumably would require demolition of the track, which includes its iconic, cantilevered-roof grandstand.

Picture: Coady Pictures

Other than a mid-June goal for distributing proposals, CDI has not outlined any timetable for picking out or saying a winning bid, if any.

As for the Bears bid, it is really critical to observe that the staff has a long history—dating again to the 1970s—of applying a proposed shift to Arlington Heights, Sick., to wring concessions on its stadium lease from the Town of Chicago. At one particular point, previous Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley explained if the team moved to the northwest suburb, he would insist it be renamed the “Arlington Heights Bears.”

The Bears at this time play in Soldier Subject on Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. The facility was created in 1919 and rebuilt among 2002-04. The stadium is one of the smallest in the Countrywide Football League, seating just 61,500. The Bears’ lease runs by means of 2033.

The move to promote the Arlington land began with CDI’s surprise selection in 2019 not to utilize for a freshly authorized on line casino license at the observe. CDI officials followed that last yr with an announcement to traders in the publicly traded corporation that they instead meant to offer the house for development.

Other than the Bears’ toe in the h2o, the only other verified fascinated bash is Arnold’s group. The president and CEO of a superior-stop lodging and hospitality firm introduced June 15 his team has submitted a letter of intent outlining preservation of racing with other areas of the land utilized for an arena “ideal to host a small-league hockey workforce” as element of an enjoyment elaborate. Housing also is bundled in the plan.

Arnold mentioned his consortium also consists of important Chicago business enhancement firm Sterling Bay, other developers, and “higher-net really worth individuals.”

 Scenic - ARLINGTON PARK - 04-30-21
Image: Coady Photography

“We have the capital and the enthusiasm to make Thoroughbred racing function at Arlington Park,” Arnold reported in a information launch June 15. “We appear ahead to continuing the legacy that is Arlington.”

There has been a presumption among the nearby horsemen, however, that CDI will not likely sell to anyone who seeks to carry on racing. Arlington Heights, responding to that sentiment, lately handed an ordinance prohibiting CDI from inserting any no-gaming clause in a profits settlement, figuring a effective continuance of racing may well demand a supplemental profits stream these types of as gaming revenue. 

In any occasion, the deadline for making use of for a on line casino license at the monitor expired extended ago and legislative approval would be demanded to reopen that window. Even in the not likely party that hurdle was cleared, new entrepreneurs would need approval from the Illinois Gaming Board which, two entire decades immediately after passage of enabling laws, has however to situation a license for any of the 6 newly licensed non-track casinos.

There is some skepticism, even between horsemen, that ongoing racing at Arlington without the need of a casino would be a winning guess. Absent new gaming income, horsemen are hard-pressed to consider managing for additional than the existing $120,000 to $150,000 a day in purse income. With Arlington shut and racing conducted total-time at on line casino-fueled Hawthorne Racecourse, purses would be expected to be appreciably bigger.

That raises the question: Which is extra crucial, considerably larger purses or the Arlington “mystique?” 

A further complication is the require to offer for the battling Illinois harness horsemen. The 2019 gaming law expansion also licensed a racino for Standardbreds in the south Chicago suburbs but the only approach that has surfaced for that facility fell as a result of when the condition refused to market the land on which it would be positioned.

If Hawthorne were being the only remaining Chicago-area monitor, harness and Thoroughbred racing would compete for dates.