Arlington Heights

Three questions about the Bears stadium situation

Thinking about the Chicago Bears' next steps forward through their stadium debacle with Arlington Heights.

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The Bears announced on Friday they no longer consider Arlington Heights a "singular focus," opening up other municipalities as options for their desired stadium. 

This unfolded in part because Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office placed the property value at $197 million, the price the Bears paid for Arlington Park. That means the Bears' annual tax bill going forward would rest at roughly $16 million. 

The Bears, on the other hand, assessed the value of the property closer to $33 million, which would have penned their tax bill closer to $4 million per year. They started demolition at the property in part to lower the land's value and tax bill as a product. 

A hearing for the valuation is set for sometime in June. 

However, the Bears have voiced their dismay with the situation and are reopening their stadium desires to other geographical locations. With only statements from the Bears, Arlington Heights and the Mayor of Naperville as an interested suitor, here are questions left to be answered. 

RELATED: Bears' stadium audible first deal-making move by Warren

Can the Bears ditch Arlington Heights?

This poses the largest question that needs answering in this whole debacle. Remember, the Bears have come a long way with Arlington Heights. 

They placed a bid on the land back in September 2021, nearly three years ago. They went through a long process before finally putting pen to paper and closing on Arlington Park last February. They agreed to purchase the land for $197.2 million. 

They staved off the attempts from the city to keep them at Soldier Field. They held a town hall meeting in Arlington Heights to address questions of the community members. And in November, they hired Hart Howerton to construct a full-scale design for the area surrounding the stadium. 

Recently, the Bears received approval to begin demolition on the property, one step closer to breaking ground on the entire thing. Can they throw that all away now?

Remember, they purchased the land. Presumably, if they embarked elsewhere to build a stadium, they would likely need to sell the land. From my eyes, the Bears are knee-deep with Arlington Heights. It's best to look at the Bears' move to expand their network as a tactic against tax assessors to help lower the property valuation. 

How did Naperville come into play?

A spokesperson for Naperville also confirmed Mayor Scott Wehrli "reached out to the Chicago Bears organization to introduce it as a thriving community with multiple opportunities for business investment."

Wehrli sent an email to Bears President Kevin Warren, expressing his invitation for the Bears to set up camp in Naperville. Wehrli claims to be a lifelong Bears fan, adding personal interest in helping the Bears find a new home. 

Upon Warren seeing an email from Wehrli in his inbox while undergoing a chess match with Arlington Heights, Warren is gunning to checkmate the tax assessors by playing hardball.

Before Warren's arrival as the new president of the team, one additional question comes to mind with Naperville's emergence -- was Naperville an interested suitor at the beginning of the process? If so, why did the Bears opt for Arlington Heights, potentially knowing there would be hurdles to jump along the way?

Naperville is also congruent with the Bears' assessment of Arlington Park's value, showing their compliance with whatever property assessment they can offer in their town. 

"The 2022 assessment of the former Arlington Racecourse site is consistent with both the 2023 purchase price of the property and the price per square foot of other similarly sized land in the area," Scott Smith, a spokesman for the office stated. "The facts speak for themselves."

Is there any chance the Bears resort back to Soldier Field?

Without any concrete evidence of the Bears' thinking for the next steps, it's safe to say they will do everything in their power not to return to Soldier Field. 

Soldier Field offers the Bears very few advantages outside of its location. 

For starters, and the most significant point, the Bears don't own it. Unless a conversation of ownership transfer was on the table, the Bears would likely never aim to stay there. Without owning the stadium, the Bears miss out on an absurd amount of monetization opportunities. 

Take Taylor Swift's sold-out, weekend concert at Soldier Field this upcoming weekend. The city of Chicago poses to make a lucrative amount from her presence at Soldier Field; but, the Bears won't see a penny. It's not their stadium. They have no skin in the game. 

If and when the Bears build a stadium to call their own, they'll have a cornucopia of opportunities to monetize their stadium year-round. So, for that reason alone, and plenty of others, the Bears will likely continue their quest of finding a new stadium.

It's a large reason the Bears hired Warren to become their President/CEO. His forte comes in stadium building, seeing as he spearheaded U.S. Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. 

Stay tuned as this everlong, yet captivating storyline treks forward. 

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