Bears Stadium

Among all the changes in Bears stadium plan, one thing has remained a constant

No matter where the Bears call home, one detail about the Bears stadium will not change

NBC Universal, Inc.

The conversation surrounding the Bears next stadium has shifted several times since the team purchased 326 acres of land in Arlington Heights last year, but throughout all the change one thing has remained constant. It’s clear that the Bears will build a domed stadium, wherever they play.

According to a source with knowledge of the Bears’ stadium plans, if the Bears do end up staying in the city rather than moving to the suburbs, the stadium would still be enclosed. That’s been the line from the Bears ever since they started talking about a new home. The Bears will play inside and will not have a retractable roof. In the past, the team has said their roof will be fixed in place because having a retractable roof that the team can open on sunny days is prohibitively expensive.

In a statement, Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren said the team is “committed to contributing over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public to enjoy in the City of Chicago.”

That’s the biggest indication we’ve heard from the team that they’re shifting focus away from Arlington Heights and back towards the city.

The Bears bought Arlington Park last year for nearly $200 million and began demolishing buildings on site shortly thereafter. The Bears said many times after purchasing the land that they needed property tax “certainty” before developing the land, and that the purchase did not guarantee that they would develop the land. For months it was assumed that was just cautious talk from the team, and that Arlington Park would be the obvious choice for the team’s next home. After all, they owned the land. But they hit an obstacle with the property taxes in the form of legal negotiations with the local school districts about the value of the site.

Initially, the Bears argued the property should be appraised at $60 million, while the school districts argued it was worth $160 million. The Bears and school districts were unable to bridge that $100 million gap, so the decision went to the Cook County Board of Review. Last month, the Board of Review set the value at nearly $125 million and ruled that the property should be taxed at the 25% rate for a commercial property, not the 10% rate for vacant land. Officials said they decided on the 25% rate since buildings remained on site through December.

Now the Bears can either appeal the decision to the Property Tax Appeal Board, or file a suit in the Cook County circuit court. Each option would likely be a long process, so still no final “certainty” on the property tax for some time.

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