Churchill Downs: 'Strong proposals from numerous parties' to buy Arlington Park

Arlington Park's owner said Tuesday its real estate firm has received “strong proposals from numerous parties” for redevelopment of the iconic racetrack in Arlington Heights.

The brief statement from Churchill Downs Inc. came just minutes after a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for developers to submit initial plans and offers for the 326 acres of prime real estate at Euclid and Wilke roads.

Officials at the Louisville, Kentucky-based horse racing and gambling corporation said they and Chicago real estate broker CBRE will now evaluate the proposals confidentially, and “provide an update on the sale process at the appropriate time in the coming weeks.”

Churchill announced the property was for sale in February and said it would be marketed as a “redevelopment opportunity.” The move was foreshadowed by CEO Bill Carstanjen's comments in July 2020, and the firm's acquisition of a majority stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in March 2019.

Only one group who submitted an offer to buy Arlington Park has so far publicly announced their plans.

Former Arlington Park President Roy Arnold, who previously told the Daily Herald that he is leading a group that wants to preserve the track for live horse racing and add other amenities, revealed more about his consortium and their proposal Tuesday.

Arnold, president and CEO of Endeavor Properties LLC, a hospitality consulting and investment group, is working with prominent Chicago developer Sterling Bay, Ocean Atlantic, GSP Development, and “high net worth individuals,” according to his statement.

The group on Tuesday submitted a letter of intent to purchase Arlington Park, including an undisclosed offer price. Arnold told the Daily Herald on Monday that he expects his group to be “the high bidder, or close to it.”

The proposal calls for retention of the existing track and grandstand, and construction of a mid-size arena suitable to host a minor league hockey team. The arena would serve as an anchor tenant of a 60-acre, four-season entertainment district.

The sprawling property would also have room for a low-density housing development of some 300 units and a 60-acre industrial space, according to Arnold's plans.

It isn't known if the long-rumored possibility of a Chicago Bears move to Arlington Heights came any closer to the goal line Tuesday night.

A Bears spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment after the 5 p.m. deadline, but the team has not denied interest in a move to Arlington Park when previously asked.

Adding fuel to the speculation fire, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said during a radio interview Tuesday afternoon he is “anxiously awaiting” to see if the Bears submitted a bid to Churchill Downs.

Hayes said on WSCR 670-AM The Score that village officials sent the Bears' front office a letter to say they are available to answer any questions, and would be happy to explore the possibility of a move to Arlington Park with them. The Bears acknowledged receipt of the letter, but haven't had a meeting with village officials, Hayes said.

“We've not heard anything definite, but we have not heard that they are not interested. So until we hear that, we're going to consider it on the table,” Hayes said in the interview. “I know there are a lot of people who would be very excited, including myself, to see the Bears in Arlington Heights.”

Hayes told the Daily Herald Monday there are fewer than 10 redevelopment proposals of which he's aware, including “a couple” groups that hope to preserve horse racing, including Arnold's plan.

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