The Chicago Bears are still determined to move from Soldier Field to a new stadium they are planning to construct in Arlington Heights, but a few local mayors from the surrounding suburbs are pushing back on a proposed measure that would provide state assistance for the team’s development project.
According to The Daily Herald, the mayors of Rolling Meadows (Lara Sanoica) and Palatine (Jim Schwantz) co-signed a letter to House Executive Committee Chairman Bob Rita on April 17 in which they formalized their opposition to legislation that would assist the Bears with their stadium project, citing “‘significant concerns’ about how revenues would be allocated from the Bears’ proposed Arlington Park redevelopment.”
The proposed bill in question — House Bill 0610 — would, among other things, give a percentage of the tax revenue from the project to the surrounding communities with Arlington Heights receiving the largest share of 30% and Rolling Meadows and Palatine each getting 14%. The Bears are also seeking a tax freeze to incentivize their relocation.
Without infrastructure and traffic studies and a formal development plan, though, Sanoica and Schwantz are concerned it is too soon to allocate revenues.
“The bill as written does not take into account the full scope of the Bears development. The Bears don’t even know the full scope of the Bears development at this time,” Sanoica wrote, via The Daily Herald’s Christopher Placek.
The bill was discussed Wednesday in front of the Illinois House Executive Committee, but the measure didn’t gain enough steam to be brought before the legislature before the session ended on Friday, May 19. The measure will now have to be revisited in the fall during Illinois’ next legislative session; although, Fox 32 Chicago reported the Bears are “grateful for this spirit of continued negotiation” among state lawmakers.
Bears Seek Assistance to Ensure Project’s ‘Feasibility’
The Bears have been making steady progress on their potential move to Arlington Heights for more than a year now. They closed on the 326-acre property that previously housed the Arlington International Racecourse back in February and, according to The Chicago Tribune, filed paperwork in early May to begin demolition on the property — a move that could help the Bears lower the property value along with the tax costs.
Even still, the Bears have continually expressed caution that their move from Chicago to the suburbs is not a done deal. They are still working to determine if constructing a stadium and entertainment district on the land would be viable for them. Should they decide to go through with building the stadium, they have also made it clear they would “require assistance to ensure feasibility” in terms of the project’s grand undertaking.
Here’s what the Bears wrote in their February 15 open letter about the development:
We have publicly stated and repeat here again: If we construct a state-of-the-art stadium, we will not seek taxpayer funds locally or otherwise for the structure. If we proceed, however, this project would require assistance to ensure feasibility, including our securing property tax certainty and support for infrastructure commensurate with public benefits the project will yield to the region. For the development to move forward, and for this effort to be financially feasible, a public-private partnership addressing predictable taxes and necessary infrastructure funding for public uses is essential.
Bears President Has ‘Sole Focus’ on Stadium Project
The Bears have made tangible progress toward their potential new stadium with the closing of the property and, now, their attempt to lower the tax number, but perhaps the most important move toward that goal has been the hiring of Kevin Warren.
Warren — a former NFL executive and Big Ten Conference commissioner — officially took over as the Bears’ new President/CEO on April 17 and provides the franchise with an ideal negotiator who has prior experience with the construction of an NFL stadium. During his tenure as the COO of the Minnesota Vikings from 2015 to 2019, he was instrumental in helping them build U.S. Bank Stadium. He also said when the Bears hired him that his “sole focus” is on the stadium development project in the suburbs.
“We will continue to do it the right way,” Warren said in his introductory press conference on January 17. “We will work hard. We will have fun. We will be diligent. We will be detailed. We will be methodical. We’ll operate with integrity and honor at every step of the way. This is a special time in the NFL, but most of all it’s a special time for the Chicago Bears. Everything is ahead of us. All we need to do now is go and grasp it, put in the time and energy and effort.”