While the Chicago Bears said in early June that Arlington Heights was no longer its "singular focus" in the search for a new stadium site, the team's CEO met with community leaders on Monday night to address questions and concerns regarding the project.
Residents submitted questions for Bears CEO Kevin Warren ahead of time, with topics ranging from the potential economic impact to tax breaks and which other cities are being seriously considered for a new stadium. Monday night's meeting was hosted by Touchdown Arlington, which is billed as "a grassroots coalition of local community leaders and business owners that is advocating to make Arlington Heights the permanent home of the Chicago Bears."
Community members gave Warren a warm welcome as he sat down for the conversation, covering everything from demolition progress at the site of the former Arlington Park racecourse to the amount of jobs the project could bring. Warren explained that around 48,000 new jobs could potentially be created during the construction process, and almost $10 billion in "positive economic energy" could be generated.
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“Residents in the area are going to miss the revenue from the racetrack, so they need something coming back in and when you get a stadium that can be used year round, it’s a no brainer!," said neighbor Duke Dynek.
Earlier this month, the team said its plans for a stadium in Arlington Heights were "at risk" due to a property tax dispute.
A recent property and tax assessment laid spikes in the road for continued progress at the site. The Bears assess the value of the land around $33 million. But during a triennial reassessment, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s office placed the value at $197 million. Their valuation would stick the Bears with an expensive tax bill of around $16 million annually.
Many in attendance at the meeting, meanwhile, had hoped to get confirmation of a Bears move to Arlington Heights in wake of exterior demolition starting at the site of the former racecourse.
Some left with more questions than answers, while others remain hopeful.
“I think the overall answer is a generic one," resident David Vega said. "There’s no specifics. Right now it’s a lot of overall discussion.”
Warren said that he has been talking with other cities about building a world-class stadium elsewhere. Leaders from Chicago, Waukegan and Naperville previously expressed interest.
“I feel a fiduciary responsibility to build a world class venue for all of our fans, for all of the citizens of the state of Illinois, something that we can be very proud of that we can host these major events year round," Warren said.
Residents are hoping those year-round events, and of course Bears games, would be held in their town.
“It’s close to expressways," resident Laura Bulat said. "It’s not that far from Chicago, so I think it’s a lot more convenient than Naperville.”