As demolition work begins on portions of the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse site in suburban Arlington Heights, the village’s mayor says that it is just one step in the process of a potential Chicago Bears stadium coming to the community.
The Bears have received permission to begin demolishing portions of the grandstand and the office and jockey locker room buildings on the site, but while that work has begun, Mayor Thomas Hayes is urging residents not to count chickens before they hatch.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to build a new stadium, so we’re still a long, long way to go in terms of final plans,” he said. “But it is a step in the right direction, and we’re going to keep the ball rolling, so to speak.”
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A purchase agreement was reached between the team and Churchill Downs to buy the site for $197.2 million. Since then, plans have been drawn up for what a stadium could look like, while the permitting process remains ongoing.
Currently, the Bears are still working to secure final approval from village and county officials to demolish the façade of the main grandstand, according to Hayes.
That is one of several hoops the team still needs to jump through in order to fully move forward with the stadium project. The two sides remain at odds over the property tax valuation of the site, with the Bears pushing for a lower bill and for legislators in Springfield to approve specific tax incentives due to the size and scope of the project.
The team also needs to work on ways to retire the state’s debt that was incurred during renovations of Soldier Field during the early 2000’s. One of the proposals involves a per-ticket tax revenue stream on the new stadium, but that would also have to be approved by state lawmakers.
Finally, there is the matter of the team’s lease in Chicago, which runs through 2033. The team can break that lease as soon as 2026, but it would cost approximately $84 million to do so.