HomeChurchill Downs CEO says the Bears will build a ‘world class stadium’ at Arlington Racecourse

Churchill Downs CEO says the Bears will build a ‘world class stadium’ at Arlington Racecourse

The CEO of the gambling company that sells Arlington International Racecourse to the Chicago Bears said Thursday he expects the team to build a “world-class stadium” at the popular Northwest suburban site.

In the first public comments from an executive on both sides of the $197 million sale agreement announced last month, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Karstangen expressed regret over losing one esports in the Arlington Heights Oval and excitement at the possibility of another being introduced. .

“While we are saddened by the closure of Arlington Park and would have liked to continue racing and investing in the area, we believe that the Chicago Bears will eventually develop this premium property into a world-class stadium and development, with many amenities for the fans,” Karstangen said during a quarter call. annual earnings.

Only so far have Bears representatives said that the team is doing “due diligence” in exploring the possibility of a new course on the 326-acre plot, where the final thoroughbred races were held just days before the sale was announced on September 29. .

Carstangen described the decision to sell Arlington as “a comment on the old racing laws that were not actually changed in a material way in the [Illinois] In more than 30 years, and it no longer works.”

In fact, those laws changed drastically in 2019 with the passing of a massive gambling expansion that is allowing horse racing tracks to become “rasinos” with slot machines and table games as a way to supplement the dwindling portfolios of the state’s struggling horse racing industry. Churchill Downs had lobbied for the franchise for decades along with other gambling interests, only to pass up the opportunity, blaming high taxes.

Spirit One, right, of France, led by Loritz Mendezbal, leads the Arlington Million package at Arlington International Racecourse in 2008.
Charles Rex Arbogast Profile / AP

Karstangen rejected this legislation, saying, “It wasn’t really passed in a form that was sufficient to compensate for the state’s racing model.”

So instead of investing in the 93-year-old track, the Lousiville-based company is choosing to sell it to the Bears, who bid on a group led by former Arlington International Racecourse president Roy Arnold that wanted to keep the ponies running.

Although the Daily Herald reports that Another group with a racing mindset was flirting with bears to resume the raceBears spokesman Scott Hagel said in an email that the team “is not pursuing any horse racing opportunities on the site.”

The sale is not expected to close until late 2022 or early 2023, provided the team obtains approvals from officials in the suburb. Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said last week that his office has held initial meetings with team representatives, but that the Bears family has not yet set out specific visions for the land.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes at Arlington International Racecourse.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes at Arlington International Racecourse.
Mark Welch/Daily Herald

The team will be in trouble for about $87 million If they’re going to break the lease at Soldier Field After the estimated five years, it may take construction of the suburban dome.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called on the organization to return to the negotiating table in an effort to keep it at the front of the lake. The team has expressed interest in opening a sportsbook in the old stadium, but Lightfoot has been cool with the idea as her office is also trying to attract developers for an entire casino in the city.

Karstangen said Churchill Downs would not be one of the bidders for this casino license. Applications are due to be submitted to the Lightfoot office on Friday.