Bears Stadium in Arlington Heights ‘At Risk,’ New Suburb in Contention

Bears Stadium Plans Naperville

Getty Bears team president Kevin Warren met with Naperville's mayor about an alternative stadium plan on Friday, June 2.

The Chicago Bears say their stadium plans in Arlington Heights are now “at risk” due to an unresolved tax issue and have begun the process of reaching out to other Chicago suburbs to find a potential alternative for building a new venue.

In a statement provided to NBC Sports Chicago on June 2, the Bears said that while they will continue their demolition on the 326-acre Arlington Park property and want to “work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights,” the stadium-based project is “no longer [their] singular focus” as they begin to assess their other options in the area.

Here is the full statement the Bears released Friday about the situation:

The Chicago Bears goal of building the largest single development project in Illinois history led by billions of dollars in private capital investment, and the jobs and economic benefits generated, is at risk in Arlington Heights. The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state. However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state. We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus.  It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois.

Bears Meet With Naperville About Alternative Plan

According to The Daily Herald, Bears team president Kevin Warren also met with Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli on Friday to “discuss the possibility of building a new NFL stadium in Naperville rather than Arlington Heights.” The two Chicagoland suburbs are both a little more than 30 miles outside of the city, but Naperville has nearly twice the population of the village of Arlington Heights, according to the latest assessment from the U.S. Census Bureau, and is far more developed as a city.

Given there are no vacant plots of land suitable for stadium construction in Naperville, the Bears would likely need the city to tear down one of its current developments and redevelop it into something that could offer the team what it hopes to construct. It is currently unclear if the Bears or Naperville have a site in mind for a potential stadium.

Bears Appealing Tax Assessment of Arlington Park

The biggest hitch in the equation right now for the Bears is the overall tax assessment of the 326-acre Arlington Heights property that they officially closed on back in February.

As The Daily Herald’s Kevin Schmit noted, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office “raised the value of the Arlington Park property from $33.5 million to $197 million” during his assessment earlier in 2023. The new value is close to what the Bears agreed to pay for the property ($197.2 million) in last September’s purchase agreement and could lead to a massive hike in the property tax bill that the team would be paying.

Since then, per NBC 5 Chicago, the Bears have begun the process of appealing the assessment and are asking the Cook County Board of Review to “reassess the tax value of the property” with a hearing set to take place later in June. The county’s tax assessor, though, has held firm even through Friday’s news of the Bears considering other sites, issuing a statement in response that claims “the facts speak for themselves.”

“Our office’s mission is to assess property based on market value,” a spokesperson for the Cook County Assessor’s office told NBC 5 Chicago on Friday. “The 2022 assessment of the former Arlington Racecourse site is consistent with both the 2023 purchase price of the property and the price per square foot of other similarly sized land in the area. The facts speak for themselves.”

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