The Arlington Heights Bears? Someone Hopes So

Something has to replace the soon to be closed racetrack.

It must have been a rather slow sports news day in Chicago late last week or Chicago area writers collectively came up with a thought that Chicago Bears football games should not be played at Soldier Field too much longer. This idea materialized after the Churchill Downs’ ownership group of the northwest suburban Arlington International Racecourse decided to get out of the horse racing business at that site and put the property up for sale. There will be racing at the 94-year-old track between April 30th and September 25th. The track was closed after the 1997 horse racing season and was dormant for two years. Churchill Downs bought the property and resumed racing in 2000. Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes was hopeful that Arlington Park would continue to be operational but is resigned to the fact that horse racing on the 326-acre property is more than likely done for good.

But Mayor Hayes thinks the land is rather valuable and some property developers will snap it up and build something there. “Not only including retail, commercial and residential, but perhaps entertainment as well. It could come in a number of different forms, whether it be a stadium or music venue. Those kind of things. There’s so many different possibilities.” One Arlington Heights trustee has his eyes set on sports. Jim Tinaglia, who is an architect, has conceptual plans for a domed stadium that could attract both professional football and baseball teams as well as hosting large-scale concerts. The professional football team would be the NFL’s Bears and the baseball team would be Jerry Reinsdorf’s Chicago White Sox. Horse racing once had a big following but that quickly faded after the 1950s as states began lotteries and betting was made easy. A portion of the horse racing industry has been saved by casino gambling at tracks.

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