Churchill Downs to sell Arlington Heights racetrack to NFL's Chicago Bears for $197.2M

Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
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The company anticipates closing the sale of Arlington International Racecourse land in late 2022, early 2023. The agreement signals the possibility that the team could move from Soldier Field, where they have a lease that runs through 2033, which the team could opt out of in 2026. CDI is planning to use the proceeds to buy or invest in replacement property.

Churchill Downs Incorporated announced on Wednesday that the company has signed a Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Chicago Bears, signaling the possibility the team could move from Soldier Field.

The company has agreed to sell the 326-acre property in Arlington Heights, Illinois, currently the home of Arlington International Racecourse, for $197.2 million. The closing of the sale of the property is subject to the satisfaction of various closing conditions. However, the company anticipates closing the sale in late 2022, early 2023.

Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips, said: “We are excited to have executed a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) for the Arlington Park property. We are grateful to Churchill Downs Incorporated for its efforts to reach this point. We also appreciate the support of Mayor Tom Hayes and the Village of Arlington Heights. Finalizing the PSA was the critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential."

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen, commented: “This has been an extraordinarily competitive bid process. Congratulations to the Chicago Bears for their professionalism and perseverance. It is clear they are committed to an exciting vision for their team and their fans. We wish them the greatest success and are excited for the opportunity this brings to the Village of Arlington Heights and the future economic development of this unique property.”

The biggest stumbling block for any potential Bears relocation is their lease with the city of Chicago at Soldier Field, which runs through 2033. The team could opt out of the lease in 2026 but would have to pay $84 million in damages to the city of Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Lori Elaine Lightfoot said she's committed to keeping the Bears at Soldier Field.

“A couple of data points that I think you should be aware of are the Bears have a lease with Soldier Field until 2033, and the NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” she said, reports The Chicago Tribune. “I was just on a call with senior leadership in the last two weeks. So there are things that they’d like to see differently at Soldier Field, and we want to do whatever we can to accommodate it. It’s a great iconic site, but it’s a challenging site.”

Churchill Downs is planning to use the proceeds of the sale to purchase or invest in replacement property that qualifies as an Internal Revenue Code §1031 transaction.

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