Arlington Heights

What will happen to Arlington Park after Bears announce plans to stay in Chicago?

The Bears' quest for a new stadium just took a major turn

NBC Universal, Inc.

What will happen to the property the Bears bought in Arlington Heights? That’s the first follow up question after the Bears pledged to invest $2 billion to build a new stadium in Chicago, not the suburbs.

The short answer is that we don’t know yet, but it calls into question whether the former site of the Arlington Park racetrack remains in the Bears' plans at all.

Bears president and CEO Kevin Warren confirmed the team's shift from the suburbs back to the city early Monday morning, saying in a statement that the team "are committed to contributing over $2 billion to build a stadium and improve open spaces for all families, fans and the general public to enjoy in the City of Chicago.

"The future stadium of the Chicago Bears will bring a transformative opportunity to our region—boosting the economy, creating jobs, facilitating mega events and generating millions in tax revenue. We look forward to sharing more information when our plans are finalized.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson also confirmed in a statement that the city is in talks with "the Bears, state leadership and community stakeholders" to discuss "how we can continue to responsibly support the aspirations of the team, its fans and all residents of the City of Chicago."

"I have said all along that meaningful private investment and a strong emphasis on public benefit are my requirements for public-private partnerships in our city. The Chicago Bears plans are a welcome step in that direction and a testament to Chicago’s economic vitality," Johnson said.

If the Bears go through with their plan to build a stadium in the city it would stand to reason that the team would sell their property in Arlington Heights.

The announcement represents an enormous pivot for the team. The Bears bought Arlington Park last year for nearly $200 million and began demolishing buildings on site shortly thereafter. The Bears said many times after purchasing the land that they needed property tax “certainty” before developing the land, and that the purchase did not guarantee that they would develop the land. For months it was assumed that was just cautious talk from the team, and that Arlington Park would be the obvious choice for the team’s next home. After all, they owned the land. But they hit an obstacle with the property taxes in the form of legal negotiations with the local school districts about the value of the site.

Initially, the Bears argued the property should be appraised at $60 million, while the school districts argued it was worth $160 million. The Bears and school districts were unable to bridge that $100 million gap, so the decision went to the Cook County Board of Review. Last month, the Board of Review set the value at nearly $125 million and ruled that the property should be taxed at the 25% rate for a commercial property, not the 10% rate for vacant land. Officials said they decided on the 25% rate since buildings remained on site through December.

Now the Bears can either appeal the decision to the Property Tax Appeal Board, or file a suit in the Cook County circuit court. Each option would likely be a long process, so still no final “certainty” on the property tax for some time.

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