Jim O'Donnell: Bears rebuff Wilson, say focus is on due diligence regarding Arlington Park
THE BEARS HAVE DISMISSED an overture from Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson to discuss ways and means of keeping the team in Chicago.
That's good news for fans hoping the team builds a new stadium on the land now housing the galloping ghosts of Arlington Park.
The Daily Herald learned Ted Phillips promptly replied to Wilson's request for a meeting with the Bears CEO and Chairman George McCaskey.
Wilson wanted to talk about either an expansion of seating and a dome for Soldier Field or a fresh domed stadium on a new site within city limits.
He has also put forth the idea that if the Bears leave the city, his mayoral administration would seek a new team in Chicago from the NFL.
INSTEAD, PHILLIPS WAS thoroughly preemptive in responding to the resourceful 73-year-old businessman.
According to individuals familiar with the exchange, Phillips said the Bears' sole focus currently is on long-term development of the racetrack site. That, along with ongoing due diligence regarding the $197.2 million Purchase and Sale agreement for the 326 acres agreed to by the team and seller Churchill Downs Inc. last September.
Phillips reportedly also indicated any communication with current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is being limited only to discussion of the organization's lease and operating conditions at Soldier Field.
That lease extends through the 2033 NFL season.
In the contract between the Bears and the Chicago Park District, the team's "buyout" from the lease diminishes each season. The breakaway figure to the park district after the 2026 season would be $84 million.
WILSON IS EXPECTED TO BE an impacting factor in the Feb. 28, 2023, Chicago Democratic mayoral primary.
He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In the 2019 Democratic primary, Wilson -- with 10% of a light turnout -- ran fourth behind Lightfoot (17%), Toni Preckwinkle (16%) and Bill Daley (14%).
He did, however, carry 11 of the city's 50 wards, more than any other candidate.
That sort of sway apparently doesn't carry over to the current laser-eyed intent of the Bears front office regarding a move to Arlington Heights.
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• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at email@example.com.