Jim O'Donnell: One man has the power to make the Bears at Arlington Park happen

  • Will Bears fans display their patriotic spirit in Arlington Heights in the years to come? Team management took a step toward that scenario with their statement Thursday of their bid to purchase Arlington Park.

    Will Bears fans display their patriotic spirit in Arlington Heights in the years to come? Team management took a step toward that scenario with their statement Thursday of their bid to purchase Arlington Park. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 6/18/2021 8:55 AM

THAT SOUND FROM Halas Hall on Thursday.

Was it boldness?

 

Or merely daring?

Whatever the semantics, Bears CEO Ted Phillips potentially laid the cornerstone for an unprecedented era of high-level resolve, vision and execution with his dramatic confirmation that his organization has put in a bid for the 326 acres that currently house Arlington Park.

Blind hope has 1,000 fathers; precise big-ticket task perseverance has far too frequently been an orphan in The House That George Halas Built.

That lost status could undergo an unprecedented, blessed flip if the short, straightforward statement of Phillips leads to the ultimate triumph of the Chicago Bears playing in a team-owned facility built to incorporate the decades of technological advancements to come.

And one man, with one equally simple, straightforward statement, can make the chances of the Bears playing at the new George S. Halas Stadium at Arlington Park a lock 'n a shoo'.

That man is Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker's silence on the heavy-handed imperiousness of Churchill Downs Inc. regarding its death-knelling for Arlington has been both troubling and intriguing.

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It is his administration that allows CDI licensing as the majority partner of the fabulously successful Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

It is his Gaming Board that may further increase CDI "shareholder value" by awarding the Kentucky profit hunters the license for a new casino in Waukegan.

And it is likely his administration that will determine whether CDI assumes a role of profit participant in the frighteningly carnivorous church of chance that will one day be built in the city of Chicago.

The statement that Gov. Pritzker needs to make?

"After extremely extensive research and review, my staff and I have concluded that the greatest good for the citizens of the state of Illinois will be served if the Chicago Bears are fairly and properly positioned to construct a world-class facility and revenue generator as the centerpiece of new developments at Arlington Park."

Pritzker can then appoint a respected intermediary to chair one-on-one discussions between representatives of the Bears and CDI to reach equitable sales terms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If the governor fails to take quick, assertive and pro-public action in this matter, it will undoubtedly only accelerate ugly speculation about his backstage ties to CDI and longtime Pritzker family friend Neil Bluhm, the minority partner in Des Plaines/Rivers.

As for Phillips and the Bears, they are now quite transparently racing on a tightrope in a contest that they dare not lose.

If a legacied NFL franchise can't "win" the right to buy 326 acres of for-sale property deep in the heart of its own historic region, will more resourced and future-oriented NFL owners still want the likes of the McCaskey family holding one of 32 chairs at their supremely regal table?

In the wake of Thursday's announcement, the presumption is that McCaskey Co. has the resources now in place to see the grand new Halas Stadium and peripheral development to fulfillment.

Or that current Bears ownership is indeed in an intricate expand-and-sell process that will bring new majority ownership to the NFL's largest single-market franchise.

In either case, that sound from Halas Hall on Thursday was an extraordinary one.

By 2027 or so, some might be recalling it as the first clarion of a new kind of victory from The House That Halas Built.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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