Arlington Park is one step closer to transitioning from horses to Bears. On Thursday afternoon team president Ted Phillips announced in a statement that the Bears had officially placed a bid to buy Arlington Park from Churchill Downs, Inc.
Ask around and you’ll likely hear mixed reactions to the news that Soldier Field could move. On one hand, it would provide an opportunity for the team to build a new stadium, with a bigger capacity and a retractable roof— and the chance to host a Super Bowl. On the other hand, there’s something special about playing next to Lake Michigan, with the old colonnades… and actually in the city of Chicago, instead of a suburb 30 miles away.
Churchill Downs announced the property would be put up for sale back in February. According to various reports the window to make a bid closed on Tuesday, and now Churchill Downs will take some time to review the bids and will provide an update in the coming weeks.
Soldier Field, initially called Grant Park Municipal Stadium, was built in 1924. The first event ever held at the stadium was an athletic meet between 1,000 police officers that was viewed by 90,000 spectators. The Bears were not the first football team to play at the stadium. That distinction belongs to Northwestern and Notre Dame on November 22, 1924. The Fighting Irish beat the Wildcats 13-6 that day. The Bears did play a game at Soldier Field in 1926, but they didn’t make it their regular home until 1971.
Over the years the stadium has hosted numerous notable events, including boxer Jack Dempsey’s final fight, a speech from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that was viewed by 150,000 people, and the first Special Olympics in 1968.
In 2002, major renovations were done to Soldier Field, forcing the Bears to play at the University of Illinois for one season. The renovations were completed in 2003. Following the renovations, Soldier Field lost its Historic Landmark status in 2006.