Chicago Bears say Arlington Heights stadium ‘no longer our singular focus'

Bears say Arlington Heights stadium ‘no longer singular focus' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bears are exploring more options for a suburban stadium following a tax hiccup in Arlington Heights that could see the fall of the proposed stadium in what was once Arlington Park.

In a statement to NBC Chicago, the Bears said while they are still working on the Arlington Heights location, "it is no longer our singular focus."

“The Chicago Bears goal of building the largest single development project in Illinois history led by billions of dollars in private capital investment, and the jobs and economic benefits generated, is at risk in Arlington Heights," the team's statement read. "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 for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state. We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it 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 had most recently received sign-off to begin the initial phase of demolition plans in Arlington Heights.

The village posted on its website last month that approval was given for Phase 1 of the project, which allows for interior demolition, specifically knocking down the grandstand, office and jockey building.

Arlington Heights officials released a statement Friday after the team revealed that it's exploring other possible locations.

"...The Village has always expected that the club would explore any and all viable locations as part of their due diligence process," the statement read, in part.

The village went on to tout the benefits of the Arlington Park location, such as having a dedicated Metra station and easy access to O'Hare Airport as well as Interstate 90 and Route 53.

"It is clear that the Chicago Bears Football Club understands the unique potential of this site, as evidenced by their recent purchase of the property," the statement continued. "The Village is committed to work with the club and all other regional stakeholders to continue to explore the potential redevelopment of this site and to work through the inevitable challenges that come with any large development effort."

In recent weeks, the potential move to Arlington Heights got a little more complicated after the Cook County Assessor hiked the assessed value of the team’s newly acquired land, meaning their property tax bill could be headed for a major increase.

The team closed on the purchase of the 326-acre site that held the former Arlington International Racecourse in February, paying $197.2 million for the property. The previous assessed value sat at roughly $33 million, but as part of the triennial reassessment, Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office placed its value at $197 million. That increase could hike the property tax bill proportionally, spelling out a potential sixfold spike.

The Bears are asking the Board of Review to reassess the tax value of the property. A hearing is expected to take place on the matter in June.