Keeping 2200 W. Euclid secure: Arlington Heights police, fire chiefs meet with Bears reps

Though the proverbial keys to Arlington Park have been handed over from Churchill Downs to the Chicago Bears, there was nary a sign, banner or flag bearing the team's iconic orange wishbone C logo hoisted there Thursday.

There were more immediate matters to tend to, such as a walk-through and meet-and-greet among the Bears' contracted security company and representatives of Arlington Heights' police and fire departments.

The on-site introductions took place nearly 24 hours after the NFL franchise announced it formally closed on its $197.2 million purchase of the 326-acre shuttered racetrack property.

The visit marked one of the first formal meetings between village officials and representatives of the new property owner, in a planning and development process that will likely take years before the Bears could break ground on a potential enclosed stadium and mixed-use district.

The multistep approval process is expected to include reviews of plans and studies, zoning changes, and dozens of meetings and hearings.

The Bears have cautioned that the land buy doesn't mean their vision for a $5 billion redevelopment of Arlington Park is a done deal, or that it would happen anytime soon - perhaps a decade away. So for now, they're just the new kid on the block.

"If they want to establish a partnership, we are here to be the public safety provider for the village of Arlington Heights, so it'd be good to get to know whoever the point of contact is for 2200 W. Euclid," said Police Chief Nick Pecora, who went on the tour with Fire Chief Lance Harris.

The chiefs said they provided the security team an emergency card file that has 24/7 contact information for their departments, and discussed various scenarios.

For example, they talked about making sure firefighters have keys to get into the grandstands if they're called out for an activated fire alarm, Harris said.

And police want to know whom they should contact to sign criminal complaints if there's a trespassing arrest or something else, Pecora said.

To that point, Bears officials confirmed Thursday that the site remains closed to the public, and their private security firm is monitoring the sprawling property 24/7.

Team officials said they haven't made any decisions on whether they might open portions of the site at some point for public events.

Even after the last horse race was held at the track in September 2021, Arlington Park's parking lot was host to community recycling and shredding events, and a large Polish festival last summer.

The track's entrances were open at times during the recent monthslong liquidation process that concluded in January. But when buyers weren't picking up their wares, Pecora said, Arlington Park's in-house security "hardened the gates" to stop people from making sentimental trips.

There weren't many issues from the time of the track's closure to the handoff to the Bears, Pecora said. Shortly after the closure, some teens were caught trespassing as part of a TikTok social media challenge to take videos at certain locales, he said.

After working with Arlington Park security for 40 years, Pecora expressed confidence that the Bears' new security team would likewise "evaluate security protection measures and do their due diligence and come up with a plan to make sure the site is safe."

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This may be the long-range plan for the Chicago Bears' redevelopment of Arlington Park, but Arlington Heights and team officials started small Thursday, with a meeting between the team's security contractor and the village's police and fire brass. Courtesy of Chicago Bears
Even if all goes according to plan, it'll be years before the Chicago Bears' redevelopment of Arlington Park looks anything like this. The long process started small Thursday, with a meeting between the team's security contractor and the village's police and fire brass. Courtesy of Chicago Bears
Nick Pecora, Arlington Heights police chief
Lance Harris, Arlington Heights fire chief
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