Arlington Heights takes first step toward taxpayer-backed Chicago Bears stadium

Arlington Heights takes first step toward taxpayer-backed Chicago Bears stadium

Arlington Heights trustees unanimously approved a pre-development agreement with the Chicago Bears, but the review process could take years before they break ground on the new football stadium.

The Chicago Bears are closer to playing at Arlington Heights, but are still likely years away from building a football stadium there.

The Arlington Heights Village Board unanimously approved a pre-development agreement for the Bears to redevelop Arlington Racetrack into a $5 billion mixed-use district with a stadium, hotels, offices, restaurants and more.

The agreement would use village funds to partially pay for infrastructure, but trustees said final approval would only come with proof they’d recoup costs over time.

It marks the first official vote from the village on moving forward with the redevelopment, but the agreement is not legally binding.

Trustee John Scaletta said he was concerned about foot traffic because the plan is built around the Arlington Park train station.

“There’s way too much going on, like 10 pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag,” Scaletta said.

A transit-oriented plan also raised concerns the downtown district would suffer by competing with new businesses at the 326-acre property.

Village Manager Randy Racklaus said the next steps depend on the Bears making a final decision on purchasing the former horse racetrack.

“The ball is now in the Chicago Bears’ court at this point and much of the upcoming schedule will depend on when the Bears make a purchasing decision and how quickly they wish to move to develop the property if they purchase it,” Racklaus said.

The Bears entered a $197 million purchase agreement in September 2021, but they must finalize the agreement before they officially own the land.

Chicagoans still must pay $415 million for past renovations made in 2002 to Solider Field. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has pitched another round of renovations that would cost each city taxpayer anywhere from $833 to $2,036, depending on which plan was chosen, as a way to keep the football team from moving out of Chicago.

There’s been no indication of whether the Bears are interested in Lightfoot’s plan.

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