After submitting bid to buy racetrack, Bears announce sponsorship deal with racetrack’s owner

POSSIBLE MERGER OF ARLINGTON INTERNATIONAL RACECOURSE AND CHURCHILL DOWNS
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week dismissed the Bears’ bid to buy Arlington International Racecourse as a stadium negotiating ploy. It might be time for her to take the Bears’ potential move to the suburbs seriously.

Only days after submitting their Arlington Park bid, the Bears on Tuesday announced a sponsorship deal with the racetrack’s owner and Rivers Casino. A minority owner and principal operator of the casinos is Neil Bluhm, a minority owner of the Bulls and White Sox and one of the richest men in Chicago, according to Hub Arkush of Shaw Media.

Arkush speculates the McCaskey family could partner with Bluhm and Churchill Downs to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, which is about 30 miles from Soldier Field.

The four-paragraph news release does not mention the Bears’ announcement last Thursday about the team’s bid for the 326-acre racetrack property. But the sponsorship deal connects some dots, showing the sides have had talks.

A Bears spokeswoman declined to answer the Daily Herald‘s question about whether negotiations over a Rivers sponsorship deal began before, after, or were concurrent with discussions about the team’s interest in Arlington Park.

“We are incredibly excited to announce BetRivers and Rivers Casino as our first multiyear exclusive partner in the Sportsbook and Casino categories,” Bears CEO Ted Phillips said in the announcement. “We look forward to connecting with our fans in fun and unique ways through these avenues and couldn’t be prouder to be building this relationship with a hometown company.”