Chicago Bears

Bears, suburban school districts $100M apart in valuations of Arlington Heights site

The team has long said they need what they called property tax “certainty” in order to put shovels in the ground

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Negotiations over the Chicago Bears’ property tax bill are ongoing, with the fate of an Arlington Heights stadium development in the balance as the team and the surrounding school districts remain $100 million apart in their valuations of the site, according to testimony at a hearing on the dispute Tuesday.

The team’s attorney argued at a Cook County Board of Review hearing that the property should be valued at $60 million and taxed at the 10% rate for residential and vacant land, due to the work done to demolish the existing structures on the site, versus the 25% tax rate for commercial properties.

The Bears’ lawyer said the team submitted two appraisals of the site, one for $60 million and the other for $71 million, and contended the assessor’s office inflated the value of the land relative to similar sales in the area.

Three surrounding school districts – which rely on property taxes for their funding – intervened in the Bears’ appeal. The schools submitted an appraisal finding the site to be worth $160 million, leaving a $100 million gap between the two sides.

The Bears announced in September 2021 they had reached an agreement to purchase the 326-acre northwest suburban site that housed the former Arlington International Racecourse for $197.2 million, and closed on the property in February 2023.

The previous assessed value of the site was about $33 million. The Cook County Assessor’s Office reassessed the site and placed its value at $197 million.

The racetrack’s previous owner, Churchill Downs, was on the hook for that increased tax bill and filed an appeal arguing it was worth $37.2 million. The school districts at that point argued it was worth $150 million. The two sides reached a settlement of $95 million, but it was a one-year agreement, forcing the Bears to revisit the issue as the responsibility of the tax bill transferred to them.

Following that agreement, the assessor’s office again raised the value to $192 million, the Bears’ attorney said Tuesday.

The team has long said they need what they called property tax “certainty” in order to put shovels in the ground, hoping to build a multi-billion dollar stadium district with restaurants, stores, residential real estate and more.

Negotiations between the Bears and the school districts over the value of the property remain ongoing – but the clock is ticking.

If they don’t come to an agreement, the Board of Review will rule on the dispute near the end of February, Commissioner Samantha Steele said.

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