Arlington Park Ownership Change Could Be Just Weeks Away

Written By Derek Helling on January 9, 2023
property tax arlington park stadium project

A former site of live horse racing in Illinois could quickly become associated with an entirely different type of animal. Arlington Park, which the Chicago Bears have already identified as a real estate acquisition target, could become one of the NFL team’s assets soon.

A spokesperson for the team affirmed the Bears’ interest in the property and a desired timeline for the completion of the transaction on Monday. The Bears’ acquisition of the property would not guarantee that gambling would return to the property in the near future, though.

Arlington Park transaction could occur soon

According to Robert McCoppin and Jake Sheridan of the Chicago Tribune, Bears spokesman Scott Hagel characterized Arlington Park as a high priority for the offseason.

“We remain on track to close on the Arlington Park property in the first quarter of 2023. As we have said publicly, closing on the land does not guarantee we will develop it.”

The Bears have to decide whether to exercise their option to purchase the former horse track, which last saw live action in September 2021, before April. As Hagel alluded to, simply acquiring the property is an action all its own.

The Bears have maintained that they want some form of public subsidy in order to develop the property. That could come in the form of property tax relief. The Village of Arlington Heights will ultimately decide whether to grant any such concessions.

In turn, those decisions could go a long way toward determining whether gambling will take place at Arlington Park anytime soon.

Potential Bears purchase affords few answers

To some degree, Arlington Park could be of greatest value to the Bears lying idle. Owning the property would give the NFL franchise leverage to sweeten its current situation at Soldier Field. Their lease expires at that stadium in 2027.

Even if the Bears do make the move out to Arlington Heights, it’s no foregone conclusion that they would bring gambling with them, at least the in-person variety. While Illinois law would allow for a physical sportsbook within a five-block radius of such a stadium, Arlington Heights would again have something to say about that.

The Bears would need local approval to operate such a facility. So far, popular sentiment among Arlington Heights residents is against such an amenity being in or near a potential Bears stadium. That could act as a serious obstacle for a retail sportsbook on the property.

Of course, there are many other possibilities, like the Bears selling the property before developing it. All that’s certain right now is that the Bears publicly maintain they plan to buy Arlington Park in the first quarter of this year. What they will do with it from there is as up in the air as how they’ll use the first overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Photo by AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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