Pritzker would be 'disappointed' to see Bears leave Chicago

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker says he would be disappointed if the Chicago Bears packed their bags and moved out of Soldier Field.

"There's something about having them in the city and nearby that's attractive to me, and something I care about. It's just there's a tradition I think that we all feel, many of us, about the city of Chicago. Having said that, this is a private enterprise engaging with city governments to decide what's best for them," Pritzker said.

The governor's statement comes a day after the Bears announced a $197-million agreement to buy Arlington International Racecourse in northwest suburban Arlington Heights.

Pritzker says it will be up to leaders in Chicago and Arlington Heights whether taxpayers should help pay for a new stadium.

In addition, Pritzker says the state is not involved in the deal but that he would not rule out state subsidies.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday since the Bears announced a bid to purchase the suburban racecourse.

The mayor had mocked team management in recent months over reports the Bears were preparing to leave Soldier Field — their longtime home.

She dismissed the possibility of a move, declaring the Bears should focus on beating their divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers.


On Wednesday, she expressed disappointment that top executives have not met with her.

"The Bears cut a deal with former Mayor Richard Daley 20-plus years ago. It's clearly a deal that they don't believe now works for them, but I gotta know what their specific issues are and they've gotta come to the table," Lightfoot said.

"So they gotta come to the table. I saw George McCaskey back in June and said at that time, we're ready, willing and able. Not much happened over the course of this summer. We were supposed to meet yesterday. They canceled the meeting."

Lightfoot recently claimed that "about 99%" of the criticism over her management style is motivated by racism and sexism.

Neither Bears or Arlington Heights officials took questions on Wednesday about the proposed deal.

This is actually the third time the team's seriously considered moving, and they have even looked at suburban Arlington Heights before.

Twice in the 70's, George Halas had discussions about taking over the Arlington Park racetrack. The team did it again in the 80's and 90's when considering new homes.

The Bears played their first season in downstate Decatur, Illinois in 1920.

A year later, they moved to Wrigley Field, staying for 50 years before moving to Soldier Field in 1971.

The Bears played one season at the University of Illinois in 2002 while Soldier Field was renovated.

Mayor Lightfoot wants the team to stay inside the city limits, but says there have been virtually no negotiations.

Think of it as a 100-year marriage now on the rocks. City Hall is saying, "tell me what you want!" But by their silence, the Bears are effectively saying all they want is "out!"

The mayor claims she will find new partners to fill Soldier Field.

"It doesn't make sense to me that we're focused just on a stadium that's now lying dormant for big chunks of the year," Lightfoot said.