Arlington Heights

Proposal Could Complicate Chicago Bears' Plans to Explore Arlington Heights Stadium Project

NBC Universal, Inc.

A proposed ordinance could throw a wrench into the Chicago Bears’ plans to potentially build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, with the bill aiming to prevent taxpayer-funded subsidies from being used to lure the team to the suburbs.

The ordinance, drafted by the right-leaning political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity founded by the Koch brothers, would bar Arlington Heights from using tax money as an incentive to lure businesses to the community, and that could include the Bears.

The group launched a petition last month pushing for the ordinance, drawing mixed reactions from Bears fans in the suburb.

"They’re going to make plenty of money from being over there, so I mean they should come here," Deborah Rathberger said. "We shouldn’t be financing it."

"If they’re truly going to be an economic benefit to the northwest suburbs and Arlington Heights they shouldn’t need taxpayers subsidies," added Brian Costin, deputy state director of the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Costin says the group’s focus is to address concerns about what it calls “corporate welfare.”

“We don’t have anything against the Chicago Bears. I’m a lifelong Chicago Bears fans, but we’ve seen failed stadium deals before—Soldier Field is a big example,” he said. “The average NFL stadium gets over $200 million worth of corporate subsidies, but they’re the most profitable sports enterprise in the entire world. They just signed a TV deal worth $110 billion over 11 years and that’s $3.4 billion per team, so they have more than enough money to build a state-of-the-art stadium without a single cent of taxpayer money."

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told NBC 5 in an email that “any discussion of financial incentives is premature at this point," and issued a statement discussing the proposal.  

“The ordinance proposed by Americans for Prosperity aims to prevent the Village of Arlington Heights from engaging in any financial incentives, to any business, for any reason,” Hayes said. “This extreme proposition would cripple the Village’s ability to engage in economic development throughout our entire community and would have prevented many successful redevelopment and development projects from being realized if it had it been in place in the past."

“This proposed ordinance would permanently put the Village at a competitive disadvantage compared to other Chicagoland towns for any and all economic development efforts going forward,” he added.

It remains unclear whether the proposal will get the signatures it needs to move forward. Costin says that around 300 residents have signed so far, with 550 signatures needed to put the ordinance in front of the village board.

If the board were to reject the ordinance, then organizers could circulate the petition again, with the goal of putting the measure directly before voters in the April 2023 municipal election.

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