The ‘will-they-won’t-they’ saga between the Chicago Bears and Arlington Heights continues.
This past Friday, the Bears began demolishing the grandstands at Arlington International Racecourse, moving one step closer to flattening the 326-acre property.
The team insists, however, that the teardown isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s developing the property for a new stadium.
Talks broke down over property tax expenses
Originally, the vision was to build a mixed-use entertainment complex, ‘state-of-the-art’ domed stadium, and potentially, an Illinois sportsbook on-site. But those plans hit a snag after the team voiced its concerns over the expense of its property tax assessment.
Chicago Bears spokesman Scott Hagel criticized the assessment two weeks ago, saying that it “fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state.” He then said that the plan to build the Bears’ new home in Arlington Heights was now “at risk.”
Demolition project will continue despite no confirmed end goal
Upon buying the Arlington Park property back in September 2021 for about $197.2 million, the objective was clear. Fast-forward 21 months, and the ‘Bears to Arlington’ hype train is moving a lot slower than initially expected.
Despite the property tax related gripe, the team still has plans to demolish the property, whether for a new stadium or not. So far, the project timeline looks something like this:
- Interior demolition of the racetrack began May 30 and will finish by summer’s end.
- Grandstand clear out, which started June 16 is expected to last about two weeks.
- The paddock and race office will come down in the fall, and should wrap up by the end of the year
There are more than 30 buildings on the premises, therefore, the team will require future permits for additional demolition.
Other potential Bears suitors emerge amidst Arlington Heights friction
While Arlington Heights was seen as the leading candidate to become the next home of the Chicago Bears, that did not mean they were the only option. During the selection process, the Bears entertained multiple suitors. And now that talks with Arlington are stalling, a few have begun to resurface.
Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli first reached out to the Bears in May to discuss potential properties in the area. On June 2, he met with Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren in Naperville.
Soon after, Warren spoke with new Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson via Zoom. During the city’s mayoral runoff election, Johnson seemed relatively interested in keeping the Bears in Chicago, but made it clear he wouldn’t subsidize to do so.
Officials from Waukegan, which sits about 25 miles northwest of Chicago, have also reached out to the team.
The Bears have played at Soldier Field, in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, since 1971.