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After a week of unbridled enthusiasm over the prospect of the Chicago Bears moving to Arlington Heights, the jubilant mood was tempered Monday as residents brought concerns to local officials in a public forum for the first time.
While Arlington Heights resident Keith Moens said he understands the excitement inherent to a Bears move to the village, he warned against committing any tax dollars before the community has a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
“Please don’t show your hand so soon...it’s like playing poker,” Moens said. “The Bears have plenty of ways to pay for their stadium without the help of our little piggy bank.”
But Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes said the village has not committed any funds to the Bears project, and while tax incentives are offered to businesses, “it’s a last resort.”
“We’re not going to give away the store...we’re going to take care of our residents,” Hayes said at a Monday night village board meeting, where a handful of residents stepped up to share their concerns about the Bears signing a purchase agreement for the now-shuttered Arlington International Racecourse.
While the $197.2 million deal with property owner Churchill Downs is not final - nor is it the first time the Bears have made overtures to move to Arlington Heights - the possibility of the team abandoning Soldier Field and relocating to the northwest suburbs is bittersweet for some local residents.
“Obviously, this is not a done deal, and we have a long, long way to go,” Hayes said.
Tom Loch, who lives about a mile from where the new Bears stadium would be built, said he is worried the NFL franchise might have a deleterious impact on the village if the venue were to host a Super Bowl or other massive event, which he said could not be contained by the existing infrastructure.
“When I first heard the news, as a fan, I was excited, but I have mixed emotions,” said Loch, who has lived in the village for nearly six decades. “I still say, ‘go Bears,’ but it’s way more important to say go Arlington Heights.”