Arlington Heights

Waukegan mayor sends letter to Bears in push for stadium consideration

In a letter to Chicago Bears CEO and President Kevin Warren, Waukegan Mayor Ann B. Taylor touted the city's many options for the team, including a lakefront site, which could be developed "into both the state-of-the-art stadium and entertainment district"


Waukegan is throwing its hat into the ring as the Chicago Bears begin exploring locations outside of Arlington Heights for its new stadium.

In a letter to Chicago Bears CEO and President Kevin Warren, Waukegan Mayor Ann B. Taylor touted the city's many options for the team, including a lakefront site, which could be developed "into both the state-of-the-art stadium and entertainment district."

"The City of Waukegan, located along Lake Michigan, has multiple large parcels, including lakefront property within 20 minutes of the PNC Center at Halas Hall, that could be developed into both the state-of-the-art stadium and entertainment district the team has publicly expressed interest in building," the letter read. "In addition to the availability of land controlled by the City of Waukegan, the City also has excellent transportation infrastructure as Waukegan is located along Interstate 94 and U.S. Route 41, a major stop on Metra’s Union Pacific North Line, and is home to Waukegan National Airport."

Taylor acknowledged the team's "rich history in Lake County."

"In addition to the current PNC Center at Halas Hall, the previous Halas Hall was also located in Lake County at Lake Forest College, a short trip down Sheridan Road," the letter read. "Furthermore, the city of Waukegan was home to the Bears’ winter training facility in the early 1990s. For generations, Bears players have called Lake County their home, including the neighboring towns of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Libertyville, Gurnee, Vernon Hills, Mettawa, and others. Some members of the Bears organization currently live in my neighborhood in Waukegan."

Calling Waukegan's "working-class" and diverse residents "as tough as the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears," Taylor also noted the city currently has "over a half billion dollars of economic development projects underway."

"Our City’s staff and I invite you and your leadership team to come to Waukegan to learn about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity our City can offer the Bears," the letter read. "We believe that the Monsters of the Midway deserve the opportunity to continue the tradition of playing along the shores of Lake Michigan, with the market opportunity of having a year-round facility capable of hosting other major events, including the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and other events of an international scale."

The Chicago Bears recently announced they would be exploring other options outside of Arlington Heights following a tax hiccup that the team said put their Arlington Park plans "at risk." In a statement to NBC Chicago, the Bears said while they are still working on the Arlington Heights location, "it is no longer our singular focus."

“The Chicago Bears goal of building the largest single development project in Illinois history led by billions of dollars in private capital investment, and the jobs and economic benefits generated, is at risk in Arlington Heights," the team's statement read. "The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state. However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state. We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus.  It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois.”

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

"With economic development as one of his primary focuses, the mayor will continue to highlight Naperville’s benefits to businesses throughout Chicagoland and across the country," spokesperson Linda LaCloche said in a statement, "These benefits include having the second largest economy in Illinois, along with a highly educated workforce, top ranked public safety, a vibrant downtown, excellent public transit and close proximity to major interstates, making it an attractive community for all types of business investment."

In his letter to Warren, Wehrli touted the community's accessibility and said there are several sites already available or soon-to-be available for the Bears' future home, though the proposed locations have not yet been released.

"As a lifelong Bears fan, I respect that the team has decided that developing and operating its own stadium is essential for on-field success and pursuing championships," the letter read. "On behalf of the City of Naperville, I would like to formally introduce our community to your organization as you consider or reassess your planned relocation. The city would welcome the opportunity to review your business needs and our available properties."

The news also prompted both Warren and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to issue a joint statement last week.

“Today we met and discussed our shared values and commitment to the city of Chicago, the importance of deep roots and the need for equitable community investment throughout the city," the statement read. "We are both committed to the idea that the city and its major civic institutions must grow and evolve together to meet the needs of the future. We look forward to continuing the dialogue around these shared values.”

The team had most recently received sign-off to begin the initial phase of demolition plans in Arlington Heights.

The village of Arlington Heights released a statement after news of the Bears' exploration first broke, saying it "has always expected that the club would explore any and all viable locations as part of their due diligence process."

The village went on to tout the benefits of the Arlington Park location, such as having a dedicated Metra station and easy access to O'Hare Airport as well as Interstate 90 and Route 53.

"It is clear that the Chicago Bears Football Club understands the unique potential of this site, as evidenced by their recent purchase of the property," the statement continued. "The Village is committed to work with the club and all other regional stakeholders to continue to explore the potential redevelopment of this site and to work through the inevitable challenges that come with any large development effort."

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