A few years ago, Chicago Bears fans would’ve never guessed their team would play anywhere outside of historic Soldier Field.
The Bears, an Illinois sports betting favorite, have called Soldier Field home since 1971.
But in Sept. 2021, the Bears signed a $197.2 million purchase agreement for the now-closed Arlington Racecourse. In the time since all signs have pointed to Chicago’s football team packing its bags and heading 30 miles northwest to Arlington Heights.
The Bears and Arlington Heights recently took another step toward a union. On Monday, Oct. 12, the team’s owners met with Arlington Heights officials to present the preliminary plans for the new stadium.
Bears didn’t score in meeting with local officials
A major piece of the Bears’ proposal is a multi-purpose area near the stadium. Included in that space would be residential and commercial property. The team envisions things such as bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms and apartments occupying the area.
But the Arlington Heights officials had a hard time buying into what Bears ownership pitched. Here’s what trustee Jim Tinaglia had to say:
“I am all in on getting this done for this redevelopment agreement, but I can’t buy into this site plan. I can’t buy into what it means and how detrimental I think it will be for our businesses downtown.”
Another point of contention from the meeting is public transportation and accessibility to the new stadium. The Bears proposal included enhancing the current Arlington Heights Metra station. The goal would be to make it suitable for heavier traffic on Bears game days.
But the board of local officials were caught off guard by this. They believe the best option would be to build a second train station to facilitate the large crowds.
The last topic the Bears and officials butted heads on was where the funding would come from to build the multi-purpose area. In Sept. 2021, the team said they would supply all the money needed to build the stadium.
In the meeting on Monday, Arlington Height officials said they would need to see how the multi-purpose area will positively impact the area before they can agree to dedicate public funding to build it. Village manager Randy Recklaus said:
“This agreement does not constitute any kind of agreement or obligation in any way for the village to provide or promote any public financing. The village still has to realize that fiscal benefit.”
It wasn’t a total loss for Bears ownership
There was at least one positive for the Bears from Monday’s meeting. Arlington Heights officials plan to provide incentives to businesses that relocate to the town if the Bears decide to move in.
One group proposed an ordinance to block those incentives. But when the ordinance went to vote Monday, it was unanimously denied.
This was a big win for the Bears because they plan to open a multi-purpose area with retail storefronts, restaurants and bars. Keeping these incentives in place will make moving into the area an attractive idea for businesses.
Some of the perks include:
- Tax incentives
- Tax abatements
- Fee reductions