As deadline approaches, racing and Bears stadium remain possible for Arlington Park site
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said there are fewer than 10 Arlington Park redevelopment proposals of which he's aware, ahead of a Tuesday deadline for developers and investors to submit initial offers to track owner Churchill Downs Inc. and its real estate broker.
That includes "a couple" groups that hope to preserve horse racing at the iconic track in some form, Hayes said.
And, the mayor reiterated Monday, the prospect of a long-rumored Chicago Bears move to Arlington Heights remains a possibility.
"It's still on the table, to my understanding, but it's a complete, definite 'maybe,'" Hayes said. "I'm not in a position where I could say it's a definite 'go' or definite 'no go.'"
A Bears spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment Monday, but the team has not denied interest in a move to Arlington Park when asked.
A Chicago-based spokesman for the Louisville, Kentucky, horse racing and gambling corporation on Monday didn't offer further details about Churchill Downs' quest to find a buyer for the 326 acres at Euclid and Wilke roads in Arlington Heights. But the spokesman said the company may provide an update on the process after the previously-announced Tuesday deadline for developers to submit proposals.
The formal deadline comes after a report earlier this month by Daily Herald columnist Jim O'Donnell that Churchill already reached "an agreement in principle" to sell the 94-year-old racetrack, according to multiple sources.
Roy Arnold, the former Arlington Park president who is leading a group that hopes to keep the track and add other amenities, said he was putting the finishing touches on his group's letter of interest. He planned to send it to CBRE, Churchill's real estate broker, Monday or Tuesday.
"I am optimistic when they see the offer has a credible number, and we have a clear and cogent plan for development of the property, that we will at least get an opportunity to sit down and have a business discussion with them and see if there's a way for both parties to get to a 'yes,'" Arnold said. "We're going to put an offer in. It's a credible offer. It's a material offer. And I think it'll get due consideration."
Arnold said he's heard there may be at least three other "credible" bidders, but that their offers are based upon lower valuations of the land, and may be contingent on "complex" funding issues, such as bonding and tax increment financing.
"I'm not aware of anyone else that is able to put in a credible bid that isn't dependent upon other forms of subsidy," Arnold said.
"We think we will be the high bidder, or close to it," he added.
According to CBRE's 13-page marketing brochure for the property, letters of interest are to include an offer price, earnest money deposit amount, due diligence period and total timing to close, any required contingencies, financial strength, and a general description of intended use or plans for the site.
Arnold's proposal calls for the grandstand and racetrack to remain in place, while relocating and constructing a new backstretch stable and adding a hotel and entertainment district, as well as industrial, retail and residential components.
Hayes said he'd love to see live horse racing continue at Arlington, but he and other village officials have asked Arnold and other horse racing groups about what they'd do differently than Churchill Downs to make it a successful long-term operation.
Even if the racetrack oval and grandstand is preserved, or if a professional sports stadium is built, Hayes said it's critical there be other new uses on the sprawling property that would maximize revenues.