Arlington Heights pitches tax deal in last-ditch effort for Bears 

Proposal comes as NFL team focuses on lakefront stadium in city

Chicago Bears Respond to Suburb’s tax Proposal for Stadium Site
Bears president Kevin Warren (Getty, Chicago Bears)

The Chicago Bears have zeroed in on the city’s lakefront for a $3.2 billion stadium development, but officials in Arlington Heights, where the team previously planned a new game day venue, aren’t ready to give up. 

The NFL squad recently received and responded to a proposed settlement by Arlington Heights officials to resolve a property tax assessment dispute involving three local school districts, the Daily Herald reported

When the Bears finalized a deal in February 2023 to buy the former Arlington International Racecourse for $197 million, a new stadium in northwest suburb appeared to be a done deal. 

That was until Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi reset the land value from $33.5 million to $197 million several months later. 

Adding to assessment discrepancies, the three school districts — which would benefit from the higher taxes stemming from a higher appraisal — valued the 326-acre site at $160 million, far more than the Bears’ valuation of $60 million. 

While the team appears to have scrapped its suburban stadium plans, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes is optimistic that the proposed settlement will pique the Bears’ interest.

“So I feel very comfortable that should the Bears re-engage with us and continue to explore the Arlington Park site, that the road is going to be much easier than we found in past months,” Hayes told the outlet.

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Village Manager Randy Recklaus publicly presented settlement terms in March. That was before the Bears faced rejection from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state legislators regarding public subsidies for the lakefront stadium. 

Hayes did not disclose specific details of the settlement but confirmed that elements from Recklaus’ March presentation were part of the discussion. He said that the Bears have responded to the settlement proposal, and discussions continue.

Last week, Hayes announced he would not seek reelection but expects a decision from the Bears regarding the Arlington Heights stadium before his term ends in 10 months. He reiterated his confidence that Arlington Heights would ultimately prove to be the best site for the team.

A Bears spokesman, however, said the club’s focus remains on the lakefront site, although it’s not ready to sell the Arlington Heights property, said Bears president Kevin Warren. 

Meanwhile, the Bears’ appeal to lower the property tax value of the Arlington Park site is moving through the legal process at the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board. The Bears are appealing a decision by the Cook County Board of Review that set the property value at $124.7 million, resulting in an $8.9 million tax bill. The Bears proposed $60 million valuation would lower the tax bill to $1.7 million.

Mayor Hayes acknowledged that while there are still issues to resolve, the situation has improved compared to several months ago. 

—Quinn Donoghue

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