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Chicago Bears aren't ready to sell Arlington Heights property. What does that mean for their stadium future?

There's still a long road before a new stadium is even under construction and it would seem the team isn't eliminating other options just yet

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The Chicago Bears may be focused on Chicago for their new stadium, but it seems they're not quite ready to give up on Arlington Heights entirely.

There's still a long road before a new stadium is even under construction and it would seem the team isn't eliminating other options just yet.

After being left off Illinois' $53 billion spring legislative budget, Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren spoke to members of the Union League Club Tuesday and reportedly said two things aren't currently on the table: selling Arlington Heights and selling minority stakes in the team.

On Tuesday, Kevin Warren was asked by Fox 32 Chicago Tuesday at the Lincoln Union about whether or not the organization is open to selling minority stakes in the team to generate more private investment for the stadium.

“As of today, we’re the largest landowner [in Arlington Heights], and really these stadiums take so much energy, my focus has been on Chicago,” Warren said.

The Bears have the 326 acres of land they purchased in February 2023 in Arlington Heights --- the initial destination the Bears intended to construct a new stadium.

Last the Bears left off, they stood at a stalemate with Arlington Heights school districts about property valuation. The schools see the property valued closer to the price the Bears paid for the land, handing them a higher-than-desired annual tax bill.

But Warren is steadfast about the organization's focus on building on Chicago's lakefront.

In April 2024, the Bears announced their plans to construct a stadium near the current Soldier Field, officially shifting their focus from Arlington Heights back to Chicago. But Arlington Heights Trustee Jim Bertucci said the Bears have yet to close the door on their 326-acre property in the suburbs.

“Arlington Heights is ready to go back to talking as soon as the Bears are ready to go back to talking,” Bertucci said to the Daily Herald. “By no means do I think is it over. … If they want to come back and look more seriously again at Arlington Heights, I think we’re going to have a better path for them than was in the past, and maybe an easier path than what’s happening in Chicago.”

As it stands, the Bears are laser-focused on Chicago despite the state's reluctance to support a plan that requires public dollars, which their stadium project needs to complete.

Bears COO and Executive Vice President of Stadium Development Karen Murphy said in an April presentation that the team expects the entire stadium project to cost $4.7 billion: $3.2 for the stadium itself and just over $300 million for the infrastructure required to open it, plus another $1.2 billion for two other phases of development.

In March, the team confirmed it would contribute $2 billion dollars to fund the majority of the project. A slide in the presentation clarified that the number would be closer to $2.025 billion dollars. After that, the team would look to an NFL stadium program for a $300 million loan.

That leaves a $900 million gap for the stadium financing itself. The Bears' plan has them looking to a bond mechanism in the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority program to make up the difference. They said a 2% hotel tax that is already in place for the ISFA should be able to make up the $900 million they need from public funds.

There wasn’t a clear answer as to where the team would get the $300 million for the infrastructure, however. Murphy said the team is still working with the state and looking into different funding sources.

If the team gets the public funding needed to open the stadium, they said there will be two more phases of development requiring public money: one to maximize infrastructure for the stadium and surrounding campus totaling $510 million, and another phase for “optional infrastructure to enhance the campus, improve circulation, and maximize public economic benefits,” totaling $665 million.

Add up all three phases plus the IFSA funding, and it's nearly $2.4 billion in public money.

The Bears did not explicitly ask for a bill or legislation to be passed during this session. However, during their stadium proposal presentation in April, Warren was hopeful of getting something done as quickly as possible.

Responding to the Bears' exclusion from the spring legislative budget, Warren was understanding.

"I don't think I've ever been disappointed in anything. I understand these are big projects," Warren said when asked if he was disappointed the Bears weren't included. "They take time, energy and effort to come together. They're expensive. You have to have foresight, you have to have vision, you have to have wisdom.

"I understand this is part of the process. I strongly believe we need a new stadium. For Chicago to have never hosted a Super Bowl, a Final Four, a College Football Playoff, these mega-events. We're losing out."

It's well-documented that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker isn't motivated to support the Bears' stadium plans with public dollars. His press secretary called the Bears' funding plan a "non-starter for the state."

"Interestingly enough, every jurisdiction has its own way of doing business," Warren said. "This is exactly what I expected to do. ... This is an election year. We have people who don't have meals to eat. We have people sleeping on the street. We have a lot of complex issues that we are dealing with."

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