The main issue between the Bears and Arlington Heights in shaking hands on building a new stadium at Arlington Park is the land's assessed value. The two sides reached an impasse on the subject over the summer, forcing the Bears to explore other options for a stadium location.
That number is key, as it determines how much the Bears will have to pay annually for taxes on the land.
On Friday, "in an effort to address the ongoing property value concerns," school districts in the northwest Chicago suburb announced they secured two independent appraisals by MaRous & Company that valued the property at $160 million, according to a press release.
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Along with their new assessment, they also announced the Bears promised to submit an appraisal value of their own by the end of the year.
Previously, the property was valued at $33 million by Cook County. However, during a triennial reassessment, Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office placed the value at $197 million. That six-fold spike naturally would send the Bears’ property tax bill through the roof.
Churchill Downs, who was on the hook for the increased tax bill in 2022, filed an appeal saying that the property value was $37.2 million. School districts in the area, which are funded by property taxes, countered with $150 million. The two sides eventually reached a settlement at $95 million, which took Churchill Downs’ tax payment from around $16.2 million to just under $7.8 million.
Whether or not the school districts agree to the value the Bears return with remains to be seen. The school districts are holding their ground for the community, but they said they remain open-minded about coming to an agreement on the property value.
"The school districts, like our neighboring school districts, routinely become involved in property tax matters to defend against unwarranted reductions in the assessments of significant commercial and industrial properties," the school districts said in the release. "We do so because the reductions being sought on these significant properties increase the tax burden on homeowners and can reduce the amount of money available to fund education.
"The assessment cases in which the Districts become involved are normally settled through a compromise somewhere between the values in the appraisals submitted into evidence by the taxpayer and the Districts. This is precisely how we settled the 2022 assessment with Churchill Downs, Inc."
As aforementioned, the Bears re-opened their stadium location options, despite purchasing the Arlington Park land in February 2023. Since reopening their interests, several municipalities have shown interest including Naperville, Aurora, Waukegan and the city of Chicago.
Speaking of the city, recent reports revealed the Bears are doing their "due diligence on the viability" of the South Lot of Soldier Field as a possible stadium location. They plan to use the same firm, Compass Land Surveying Aurora, that they used for Arlington Heights to survey the land.
Check back to this story for more updates.