ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — The Chicago Bears met with officials in Arlington Heights again on Monday about a possible move.
The meeting involved the new Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren and was organized by Touchdown Arlington, a coalition of Arlington Heights business owners who support the Bears’ move to town.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime proposal that will boost the region’s economic engine, create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in future tax revenues for Arlington Heights and the region,” the pro-Bears coalition said in a release announcing the meeting.
The Bears purchased Arlington International Racecourse and started tearing down the grandstand jockey and office buildings in late May. Exterior demolition of the facilities at Arlington Park began in mid-June.
But disputes over property tax values have held up prior commitments to build a new stadium on the 326-acre horse racing site that closed for $197.2 million.
Earlier this month, the Bears said the project was at risk and building a stadium outside Chicago may not be limited to Arlington Heights.
“We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus,” the Bears said in a statement to WGN-TV. “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 group organizing Monday night’s event, Grassroots Effort Touchdown Arlington, responded to the news, saying it believes local elected officials must prioritize the Arlington Park development, which they feel will help boost the region’s economy and create thousands of jobs.
The cities of Naperville and Waukegan expressed their interest in having the Bears build their new stadium in their towns.
Waukegan is just 20 minutes from Halas Hall in Lake Forest, where the Bears’ headquarters reside.
WGN News spoke with Ernie Rose, a steering committee member for Touchdown Arlington, who says they expect a packed auditorium of people looking to hear from the new Bears president directly rather than through intermediaries.
“In my conversations with people around town, they want the project to come here. Of course, there’s realistic discussions about how we get that done and differences of opinions,” Rose said. “We received over 300 questions before the meeting, so we have taken those through. We’re going to ask the tough questions, and we’re going to let Kevin (Warren) answer them. They need to hear from him. We’re not going to come in and ask softball questions. We want him to face the issues that our citizens are worried about and they’re realistic issues.”
Kevin Warren, the CEO and President of the Chicago Bears, answered questions on a variety of topics, including livability concerns, whether an impact study will be provided, how the organization would work with and give back to schools, and whether the organization is asking for tax breaks.
He also said the Bears organization has made offers to pay back more than $4 million in taxes to the school districts.
While many attendees were in favor of the move, some feel it could be a great economic boost, but still want more information.
Schaumburg resident Michael Mach said he feels there was too much “smoke and mirrors” and would like a bit more certainty on several things – including taxes, public infrastructure connecting the stadium and surrounding areas – and the jobs this project could provide.
Warren also dug into his experience of being involved in the development of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota and said he’s learned this isn’t something that happens overnight.