Chairman George McCuskey was cautious on Monday, noting that the Chicago Bears are still in the process of exploring their potential purchase of the former Arlington International Racecourse property.
But he also called the eventual site for a new stadium in Arlington Heights “an outstanding long-term proposition with great potential for the Bears.”
During a press conference to find a new general manager and coach, McCuskey and President and CEO Ted Phillips made their first public comments on the project since the Bears signed a $ 197.2 million real estate purchase agreement in September. , signaling a potential move from his old home at Soldier’s Field.
Phillips called the 326-acre site in Arlington “an extremely unique property” and said Vision of the Bears is “a multi-faceted entertainment destination that I think can really help put Arlington Heights on the map as a destination.”
“There’s nothing like this in Chicago,” he said. “So, the possibilities – we have not even begun to imagine what it could be. But we hope that if we close, we will move forward and make it a great destination. ”
Then he added a warning.
“We will not close ourselves on the ground, then this whole vision will not come true,” he said.
After the Bears complete their search for a CEO and coach, Phillips, who has been in that role for 23 years, will change responsibilities to focus on the Arlington project. The next general manager will report to McCuskey instead of Phillips, to whom former CEO Ryan Pace would report.
The Bears are also recruiting and hiring third-party vendors to help research the property.
McCuskey compared it to buying a home.
“At a facility of this size, the time between contract award and closure is significantly increased,” he said. “So a big due diligence needs to be done before we can close.”
The bears are expected to close by the end of 2022 and possibly before the first quarter of 2023, Phillips said.
“At this point, we will decide whether it is financially advisable to try to develop it further,” Phillips said. “And I think the important thing right now is that our long-term development is focused solely on this property in Arlington Park.”
McCuskey said the Bears’ involvement in the bid for the Arlington site began when they were contacted by the seller, Churchill Downs Inc., which announced last winter that it was putting the property up for sale for renovation.
The Bears have played at Soldier Field, owned by the Chicago Park District, since moving from Wrigley Field in 1971. Their lease expires until 2033.
When the purchase agreement was announced, Chicago Mayor Laurie Lightfoot said she would work to keep the team in town.
McCuskey said the Bears last spoke to city officials “a few weeks ago,” and indicated that the Bears are not closing the door to those conversations.
“In the meantime, we are delighted to have discussions with the City of Chicago and Park District on ongoing operations at Soldier’s Field,” McCuskey said.