There’s more controversy swirling around the Chicago Bears‘ potential move to Arlington Heights. Now it has come out that some believe local officials are getting their pockets lined by the Bears to make the move easier.
Arlington Heights mayor Tom Hayes was on the receiving end of some big accusations Monday night. Village resident Debbie Fisher posited that Hayes and other local officials would benefit from the Bears’ proposed migration to the suburbs, according to the Daily Herald. Such a move includes the possibility the Bears’ new home would also be the site of a retail Illinois sportsbook as previously reported.
The story so far
Fisher has long opposed the village’s plans to lure the Bears to Arlington Heights. Mayor Hayes calls the suggestion that he’d personally benefit “offensive.”
Citing a letter Hayes wrote to Bears chairman George McCaskey in March 2021, Fisher said, “This was your idea, Mayor Hayes, not ours.” In the letter, Hayes reportedly asked McCaskey, “to find a use that is worthy of the track’s legacy.”
Hayes denied the Bears proposed move was his idea. “If I had my druthers the racetrack would still be there for another 100 years,” he said.
Monday’s meeting contained a lot more back and forth. Fisher suggested the stadium be put to a vote because of its expected impact on the public. Taxes were among her concerns, especially since, ‘The Bears can afford the world.”
Chicago mayoral candidates iffy on Bears move
Back in Chicago proper, there’s another contentious battle raging: the mayoral runoff election between Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas.
Incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for re-election, leading to the runoff between two new candidates. Lightfoot was a staunch advocate for keeping the Bears at Soldier Field in the city.
Her potential replacements? Not so much.
Paul Vallas seems completely willing to let the Bears make the suburban leap.
“I don’t support billion-dollar subsidies for sports teams and I certainly don’t support putting billions of dollars into renovations at Soldier Field,” Vallas said, according to NBC5 Chicago.
Brandon Johnson, meanwhile, seems more invested in keeping the Bears in Chicago, though he also said subsidies weren’t the path he’d take.
“Let’s see what we can figure out. I’m asking the ownership of the Chicago Bears just to hold on. A better, stronger, safer Chicago is possible. It gives the new administration an opportunity to make the case, but of course, I won’t be subsidizing, but finding creative ways in which we can make sure that the ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ lives on, and my son gets to see a Super Bowl in Chicago.”
Is Arlington a done deal?
It’s hard to say definitively whether the Bears will move to Arlington, but all signs are pointing in that direction. Without significant effort from Chicago to keep the Bears within Windy City borders, it’s practically a guarantee.
The Bears have already purchased the property, though it still requires years of development and construction before the move becomes a reality.
The Bears’ lease on Solider Field runs through 2033. Breaking the lease would require a hefty payment to the city of Chicago.