Bears change of heart on Arlington site


Chicago Bears considering new option for new stadium Image: Soldier Field, John Picken, CC BY 2.0

The National Football League (NFL) team Chicago Bears are considering new locations for a new stadium – despite the National Football Conference North franchise purchasing land at Arlington Heights in Illinois, US.

‘Mirror’ stated that on June 2nd, the Bears suggested they could consider abandoning their plan to move to a new stadium at Arlington Heights with the franchise considering other locations. This news coming after the franchise already purchased land at the Arlington Heights site for $197.2million.

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, US. The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference North Division.

The 61,500-capacity Soldier Field is a multipurpose stadium on the Near South Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Opened in 1924 and reconstructed in 2003, the stadium has served as the home of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) since 1971.

The Chicago Bears bought the property that they’ve been sizing up for a new enclosed stadium in suburban Arlington Heights in Illinois (US) on February 15th this year.

‘Mirror’ further stated that back in September, the organization said they would not accept public funding for the construction of the stadium, although Chicago did expect aid in a surrounding ‘entertainment district’. The land at Arlington Heights appeared perfect, but a property assessment led the Bears to believe the property taxes for the site are too high so the area is “no longer our singular focus”.

The Bears sent out a statement which read, “It is our responsibility to listen to the 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 stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the State. However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs Incorporated in Louisville, Kentucky, for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state.”

A settlement was reached on June 1st in the property tax battle between the former owner of the Arlington Heights site where the Chicago Bears hope to build their future home, and the surrounding school districts that stand to benefit from the increased tax bill. The settlement agreement was reached between Churchill Downs – the former owner of Arlington Park, still on the hook for the tax bill – and the area school districts. But it’s a one-year agreement, meaning the site’s new owner – the Chicago Bears – will have to revisit the battle over the land’s value in the coming months.

The 1,65,000-capacity Churchill Downs is a horse racing complex located on Central Avenue in South Louisville, Kentucky, United States, famed for hosting the annual Kentucky Derby. It officially opened in 1875 and was named for Samuel Churchill, whose family was prominent in Kentucky for many years.

The Kentucky Derby is an American Grade I stakes race run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, US. The race is run by three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles, the first time horses in the field race that distance. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds.

Louisville (US)-based the Churchill Downs Incorporated is the parent company of Churchill Downs. The company has evolved from one racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, to a multi American-Statewide, publicly-traded company with racetracks, casinos and an online wagering company among its portfolio of businesses.

The Bears hoped for the entertainment district to include restaurants, offices, a hotel, fitness center, and more. The franchise hoped the project would “provide considerable economic benefits to the Cook County”.

Last Summer, the City of Chicago proposed an overhaul of Soldier Field, the multipurpose stadium renowned as the home of the Bears. The stadium opened in 1924 and underwent reconstruction in 2003, with the Bears moving into the ground in 1971.

The City suggested enclosing Soldier Field and increasing its capacity from 61,500 – the lowest in the NFL. However, the Bears have repeatedly insisted the only available options were for the Arlington Heights site.

The Bears cannot exit their lease on Soldier Field until 2026.

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