The Chicago Bears are now looking at alternative options for a new stadium outside of Arlington Heights.
The Bears purchased the 326-acre property that Arlington International Racetrack once sat on. However, the team’s prospects of building a new football stadium at that sight have gotten murky.
It may be time for ‘Plan B.’
Team officials say they are focusing on other possible locations for a new stadium. And one Illinois city is already attempting to take advantage and become the Bears’ new home. This is an abrupt change for one of the blue-blood NFL franchises.
Tax hiccup in Arlington Heights could scuttle proposed stadium
Some may call it ‘second thoughts.’ Others may refer to it as ‘cold feet.’ No matter the label, it appears the Chicago Bears are no longer a lock to move to Arlington Park.
In a statement, Bears spokesman Scott Hagel says the Arlington Heights stadium is “at risk,” citing the property’s tax assessment and a recent settlement with Churchill Downs, which they believe “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,” Hagel said in a statement.
“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.”
The Bears agreed to buy the Arlington Park property back in September 2021 for approximately $197.2 million. A year later, team officials unveiled their vision for a mixed-use entertainment complex that would include a domed stadium on the land and move the team out of Soldier Field.
The team closed on the property earlier this year, and demolition on specific structures from the former racetrack started this past week. But with uncertainties such as Cook County’s high property assessment and public funding for the land development outside of the actual stadium, the team is now considering other options.
According to the Daily Herald, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes hasn’t given up on the situation.
“We’ve gotten pretty far down the road in terms of their redevelopment of that site,” Hayes told the Herald. “I understand there’s challenges ahead that still have to be overcome. But I continue to think that the Arlington Park property is a very unique property that would be in the best interest of the Bears for their football stadium for the next 50 years or more.”
Naperville joins in on Bears’ bidding war
The Bears have flirted with other suburban options outside of Arlington Heights in the past. However, the risks with the Arlington Park property have opened the door for another Chicago suburb to enter the fray.
The city of Naperville is launching its own bid to try to lure the Bears to the up-and-coming western suburb. Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli sent the Bears a letter in May, asking the team to meet and discuss available properties. The Bears met with Wehrli in Naperville on Friday.
As talks with Arlington Heights stall amid disagreements between the team and surrounding suburbs about taxing and school districts, the Bears are now open to entertaining proposals outside of the Arlington Heights site.
Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche says Wehrli reached out to the Bears “to introduce Naperville as a thriving community with multiple opportunities for business investment.”
Naperville is about 30 miles west of Chicago. With a population of over 149,000, according to the 2020 Census, it is Illinois’ fourth largest city.