Bears resume new stadium plans in Arlington Heights

Negotiating property-tax dispute with local officials

Bears Resume New Stadium Plans In Arlington Heights
From left: Chicago Bears president Kevin Warren and Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes along with an aerial view of Arlington Park (Getty, Sea Cow, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons, LinkedIn/Tom Hayes)

A nine-figure property tax assessment prompted the Chicago Bears to explore alternative sites for its planned $5 billion stadium, but its original plan to redevelop the Arlington Park racecourse is resurfacing.

Arlington Heights and Chicago Bears officials have been working behind closed doors for several months to find common ground on the property tax dispute linked to the team’s 326-acre property, which it plans to transform into an entertainment district surrounding a new gameday venue, the Daily Herald reported

A memorandum of understanding on property tax assessments and payments has come to light. Approval by all three school districts that border the expansive site is crucial for the agreement to move forward.The districts have not rejected the proposal so far. Once all parties come to an agreement, it will be presented to the Cook County Board of Review for the ultimate nod.

Arlington Heights officials initiated drafts of the memorandum in July, followed by meetings between the Bears, Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15. 

Hundreds of pages of emails and texts among top village officials show a concerted effort to devise a tax arrangement palatable to the NFL club and the school districts, the outlet said.

While details of the memo remain confidential, village manager Randy Recklaus expressed optimism. The Bears, which began talks with Mayor Brandon Johnson about remaining in the city limits earlier this year, have reaffirmed discussions with Arlington Heights officials.

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The school districts recently appraised the property at $160 million, considerably lower than Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s $197 million valuation.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes responded to residents’ questions about the stadium’s future in a recent presentation.

“The answer I give to that question is ‘we’re working on it,’ and we have been, very hard, this summer, and that’s why we are here today — to brief you on what we believe is a way forward for the Bears to refocus on Arlington Heights as at least the primary, if not the singular, focus of your stadium search efforts,” he said.

—Quinn Donoghue