The Bears tried to gain leverage Thursday in their talks with the city of Chicago over upgrades to Soldier Field. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasn’t having it.
First, the team announced it had submitted a bid to buy the Arlington International Racecourse property in Arlington Heights, Ill., about an hour northwest of the stadium. Then, Lightfoot responded with a reminder that the Bears’ Soldier Field lease runs through 2033, and she threw a few shots at the franchise for good measure.
“This is clearly a negotiating tactic that the Bears have used before,” Lightfoot posted on Twitter. “As a season ticketholder and a 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 and finally being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”
In the interest of accuracy, the Bears made the expanded NFC playoffs last season with an 8-8 record. They lost to the Saints in the wild-card round. In fact, Chicago has made the postseason two of the past three years (2018, 2020) under coach Matt Nagy and finished 8-8 in 2019 when it missed the playoffs. It has lost its last four games against the Packers, however.
BEARS 2021: Schedule, season prediction | Draft selections
Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said in the team’s statement that it is the franchise’s “obligation to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future.”
It is not known how much the Bears bid for the 326-acre Arlington property.
Soldier Field, situated along Lake Michigan, opened in 1924. A massive renovation in 2003 changed the stadium’s look to that of a modern NFL facility. The Bears began playing there in 1971 after leaving Wrigley Field.
Lightfoot told reporters in April that Soldier Field was a “great, iconic site” but also a “challenging site.” She sounded willing to work with the team on making more upgrades.
“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,” she said, per the Chicago Tribune.
Arlington International Racecourse used to be one of the country’s premier thoroughbred horse racing tracks. It was renowned for its turf course. The track’s current owner, Churchill Downs, put the property up for sale in February. Racing at the track will end on Sept. 25.