Bears Stadium

Suburban Chicago community makes pitch as ‘natural choice' for Bears stadium

The Bears are facing skepticism from Illinois lawmakers over public financing for a new stadium and stalled talks with Arlington Heights over proposals to develop the site of the former Arlington Park International Racecourse

NBC Universal, Inc.

As the Chicago Bears face skepticism about plans to build a new stadium on the city’s lakefront, a suburb is once again making its pitch to be their new home.

In an op-ed published in the Chicago Tribune, Aurora officials say that they are a “natural choice” to host the team, and that they would roll out the red carpet for the Monsters of the Midway.

“Our city’s vision and professional know-how make Aurora the natural choice for the Bears’ next era,” the op-ed read. “Instead of negotiating with local and state officials over where the money for a new lakefront stadium in Chicago will come from, we’re poised to immediately welcome the Bears’ storied franchise to the City of Lights.”

The op-ed was penned by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, State Sen. Linda Holmes and State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, as well as Naperville Township Assessor Matt Rasche.

Those overtures come as the Bears continue to face an uphill climb to obtain public financing for a proposed stadium on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lawmakers declined to pursue any sort of deal during their spring session in Springfield, and many have shown skepticism that such financing would be politically palatable or feasible even after the 2024 elections.

“As we’ve said to the Bears over and over again, to the White Sox and also to the Chicago Red Stars, there’s just no appetite to use taxpayer funding to fund stadiums for billionaires. Even after the election,” House Speaker Emmanuel “Chris” Welch told WTTW earlier this month.

The Bears and the NFL are expected to kick in around $2 billion toward the cost of the project, which would construct a new domed stadium just to the south of the current location of Soldier Field. The team would seek out approximately $2 billion in public funding for a variety of elements of the project, something that Gov. J.B. Pritzker called “a non-starter” earlier this year.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon also expressed skepticism.

“At first glance, more than $2 billion in private funding is better than zero and a more credible opening offer. But there’s an obvious, substantial gap remaining, and I echo the governor’s skepticism,” Senate President Don Harmon said in an April statement.

In Feb. 2023, the Bears purchased the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse for nearly $200 million. The Bears sought “property tax certainty” and other items in negotiations with officials in Arlington Heights, but were unable to come to agreements.

As those negotiations stalled, the Bears turned their attention back to the city of Chicago, releasing plans in April 2024 that aimed to build a new stadium on the lakefront.

In addition to pushback from lawmakers, community groups like Friends of the Parks are also expressing concerns about the plan, saying that such development on the lakefront would have to be closely monitored to ensure public access and use of the property.

“As it stands, (the plan) still feels a little vague, but we always come back to public use,” FOTP executive director Gin Kilgore told NBC Chicago. “Is this a real public benefit? And does it fall within our expectations? We wouldn’t be having this conversation if people hadn’t fought hard to keep private development off the lakefront. That’s what it always is going to come back to for us.”

The Bears’ current lease at Soldier Field runs through the conclusion of the 2033 season.

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