Bears' stadium plan at risk after property tax assessment
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears say they are considering abandoning their plan to build an enclosed stadium and entertainment complex on a suburban tract of land they recently purchased in favor of constructing one elsewhere in the region.
Citing a property assessment they said is too high, the Bears announced in a statement Friday that building on a 326-acre site in Arlington Heights, Illinois, is “no longer our singular focus.”
“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 team said.
The Bears announced in February they purchased the site of the shuttered Arlington International Racecourse from Churchill Downs Inc. for $197.2 million.
“The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state,” the team said. "However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state."
The Bears plan to pay for their stadium, but want taxpayer dollars to cover infrastructure costs, such as roads and sewers. The team said demolition work on the racetrack will continue.
The Bears envision restaurants, retail and more on the property some 30 miles northwest of Soldier Field — all for about $5 billion, with some taxpayer help.
The city of Chicago proposed last summer enclosing Soldier Field and increasing its capacity from a league-low 61,500. But the Bears repeatedly insisted the only possibilities they were considering were for the Arlington Heights site.
Soldier Field on Chicago’s lakefront has been the Bears’ home since 1971. The team played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970, and if a new stadium is constructed, the franchise would have its name on the mortgage for the first time since arriving in Chicago.
Economic analysts have said building a Bears entertainment district would create more than 48,000 jobs and generate $9.4 billion for the local economy.
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