Bears Stadium

Could the Bears stay in Chicago? Kevin Warren gushes over the city during stadium update

The Bears CEO/President didn't confirm a stadium location but gushed over Chicago

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Bears have not yet nailed down a location for their next stadium. All options remain on the table.

CEO/President Kevin Warren said the Bears are still turning over stones and looking into every option possible. They still have interest in Arlington Heights --- the only property they've officially purchased for the project --- and even the South parking lot at Soldier Field for a future stadium.

But what about downtown Chicago? Warren gushed about downtown Chicago on Wednesday.

"What intrigues me about downtown is I strongly believe Chicago is the finest city in all of the world," Warren said. "Very rarely do you get the opportunity to have such a beautiful downtown with a vibrant business community, with an absolutely beautiful lake and the energy that goes along. I always focus on, what's a way that we could bring together the beauty of the lake, the beauty of downtown, the business community, all the art exhibits, to bring that together for an environment — because it's always about the fans.

"How can we create an environment that they really enjoy? And not only on our game days but also from art, from food, from music. I live downtown. I love the city. And I just think we're blessed to be able to live in a city like Chicago. It has many pluses. I'm a big proponent of the Chicagoland area. I'm a big proponent of Arlington Heights, but there's something that's really special about downtown Chicago."

The Bears officially purchased the 326-acre land in Arlington Heights in February 2023. They signed a purchase agreement in September 2021, but ponied up the $197 million two years later. The Bears then said they purchased the Arlington Heights and the Arlington Park property "to secure the potential of beginning a new and exciting chapter for the Bears, our fans, the Chicagoland community, and the State of Illinois."

Since then, it hasn't been rainbows and sunshine. Over the summer of 2023, the Bears ran into property/tax assessment issues with the Arlington Heights school districts.

The property was previously 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 settled for $95 million, which took Churchill Downs’ tax payment from around $16.2 million to just under $7.8 million. But that's just a one-year agreement between both sides. The Bears will be on the hook next.

Recently, the school districts came back with a property assessment of $160 million. They mentioned in the release that in early December they expect the Bears to return with a counteroffer by the New Year. It's unknown whether or not the Bears submitted a value, or what that value is. But they're still in communication with Arlington Heights.

Where are they with their communication with Arlington Heights?

"I know there's been some outreach that we need to follow up on to make sure we continue that dialogue," Warren said. "And again, this is just a long process. So I suspect sometime here in the near near future, that our attorneys and their attorneys will continue to have dialogue. And so we've had a very respectful relationship with the districts."

Arlington Heights appears to be one of the more viable options the Bears have in front of them. But Warren's infatuation with Chicago is telling.

The Bears and the city of Chicago, specifically, Mayor Brandon Johnson, have remained in constant communication about the stadium. The two sides have met twice, releasing joint statements surrounding the positive nature of their discussions each time.

And although Arlington Heights allows for a much larger space to create amenities and a larger stadium, Warren says that doesn't necessarily give them an edge over Chicago.

"Anytime you have 326 acres, you can do more," he said, referring to the difference between the Arlington Heights and Chicago locations. "But it's amazing, you know ... so you look at US Bank Stadium, that's not a real big footprint, but you've been able to create, you know, that environment and so yes, there are things that environment downtown that you can create that you don't have in the suburbs or things in the suburbs that you can create that you don't have downtown and I'm one of those individuals that are not only - I look at life as the glass is half full. I look at the glass is full and it's pouring over. And there are so many things that we could do together. So absolutely we could build something that would be magnificent downtown."

Warren has mentioned a couple of times the Bears are trying to close on an official location. He told the media following his presser about his $1 million donation to Lurie's Children's Hospital that he expects to have an announcement about the location in "a couple of months."

Back in the summer, Warren joined NBC Sports' Peter King's podcast, telling him he hopes to have a location by the end of the year. Then, he also said "Everything is on the table" for a location, similar to his comments Wednesday.

So, what's on the Bears' docket for the stadium at this juncture?

"I think the next step is just to make sure that — it’s a bunch of next steps," Warren said. "You really need to make sure that we settle on a location. You need to make sure from a financial standpoint that it not only makes sense — I’m neurotic about making sure things make financial sense. And because it’s important to make sure — this is a large amount of money — so you can’t enter in these decisions haphazardly and kind of decide as you go.

"I think the key to it is making sure we’re very deliberate. So there’s a bunch of different steps as far as location. We know with Arlington Heights, getting the tax situation squared away, seeing what happens. You have an election year this year. It’s always moving parts. That’s what makes the ribbon cutting so exciting and special. That’s what makes playing in the stadium so special because if you’re blessed to build and be associated with one stadium in your career and now to be able to do this again, I take this very seriously.

"And I just want to make sure that the legacy we create for our Chicago Bears fans, that it’s something they are truly excited about when we’re able to open the doors of our new stadium."

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