CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the Bears’ possible push to the suburbs on Wednesday after news broke Tuesday night that a purchasing agreement was in place for property at Arlington Park.
Lightfoot said George McCaskey called her last night to share that the team had signed a purchase agreement for Arlington Racecourse. She said the information was not unexpected. For Mayor Lightfoot, already challenged by the COVID crisis, budget shortfalls and a spike in violence, the Bears potentially moving to the suburbs is another headache.
“The Bears are making a business decision with that purchase,” she said. “We’ll see what unfolds there, but we also have to make a business decision here in the City of Chicago.”
The writing was on the wall. In June, the Bears submitted a bid to purchase Arlington Racecourse. Lightfoot downplayed the move and seemed to mock the team, tweeting, “the Bears should focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally and being relevant deep into the season.”
WGN News asked Lightfoot if the organization called her bluff?
“Well, I don’t think that’s accurate,” Lightfoot said. “Their issues with Soldier Field are longstanding. Way before I became mayor.”
Indeed, the Bears have been exploring a move for decades. In the 1970s, when the team raised the possibility of relocating to Arlington Heights, Mayor Richard J. Daley stood firm.
“Like hell they will,” he said. “They can use the name Arlington Heights Bears, but they’ll never use the name Chicago if I’m mayor.”
Lightfoot, who may well be forced to run for reelection with the label “mayor who lost the Bears,” is more measured.
“I’ve got to know what their specific issues are, and they’ve got to come to the table,” Lightfoot said.
Alderwoman Sophia King (4th Ward) represents the surrounding area of Soldier Field and said the city must do everything within reason to keep its team.
“The Bears are football! I mean Papa Bear Hallas, it’s football. And we have to keep that in Chicago,” King said.
It’s talk like that that has conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity worried.
“It’s been a bad deal – Soldier Field – for the city of Chicago. The Bears don’t pay any property taxes there,” said Brian Costin with Americans for Prosperity Illinois.
Lightfoot must now balance fiscal responsibility with Chicagoans’ love of their football team. The mayor adds that the deal must make sense for city taxpayers, however.
“I want to do what we can,” Lightfoot said. “I’m a Bears fan, first and foremost. I want them to stay in their named city. If we can keep them here, we’ll keep them here.”