The Bears bought the 326-acre Arlington International Racecourse site.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
The Bears have submitted paperwork with the Village of Arlington Heights to begin the demolition of Arlington International Racecourse, a team official confirmed late Wednesday.
If the permit is approved, it would signal the official end of what was once the jewel of the Chicago area’s horse-racing community. It would not, however, guarantee the Bears will build a football stadium on the 326-acre property, the team official stressed. The Bears still want property-tax certainty and for someone else to pay for infrastructure that surrounds the site, which will include hotels, restaurants and shops. The Bears have said they will not seek taxpayer money to fund the stadium itself.
Demolition won’t be immediately obvious if the permit is approved. Workers would gut the interior of the complex in the first phase before knocking down the exterior structure later.
First opened in 1927, the racetrack closed in September 2021. Four days later, the Bears — who were among those to bid on the Churchill Downs Inc. property — announced they had reached a purchase agreement for $197.2 million.
The Bears closed on the property in February, just weeks after they announced the hiring of president/CEO Kevin Warren. As a member of the Vikings’ front office, Warren shepherded into being U.S. Bank Stadium, long considered one of the best stadiums in the league by Bears brass.
The Bears have played in Soldier Field since 1971 and have a lease that runs through 2033. They could pay to break it earlier.
In March, Warren and chairman George McCaskey downplayed the likelihood of staying on the lakefront but stressed there was much work left to do in Arlington Heights. McCaskey used football terminology to describe the timeline.
‘‘We haven’t really kicked off the ball yet,’’ he said.