Bears buy Arlington Park, but Chicago still owes $640M for Soldier Field
The Chicago Bears have purchased the former Arlington Park Racetrack for $197.2 million. Chicagoans are still on the hook for $640 million for Soldier Field renovations from 2002.
The Chicago Bears are one step closer to a new stadium in Arlington Heights, but likely will need to develop it without state taxpayer support.
The Bears may be moving, but Chicago taxpayers are left with $640 million in debt for Soldier Field renovation from two decades ago. According to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, Chicago still owes that from bonds issued in 2002 to pay for Soldier Field renovations, including more than a $250 million in interest alone.
The Bears have said they’re not seeking taxpayer assistance for the development in Arlington Heights.
But state Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, filed Senate Bill 1350 giving “mega projects” like the one in her district tax breaks. The bill would make the Bears’ new stadium eligible for tax assessment freezes and certain tax exemptions.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s a Bears fan but opposes any taxpayer assistance for their new stadium.
“I am of the opinion that it’s not our obligation as the state to step in and provide major funding, and I certainly don’t want to burden taxpayers with major support for a private business,” Pritzker said.
Though the purchase of the land is final, the Bears still need approval from the village to develop a new stadium.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office released a statement after the Bears announced they purchased the 326-acre property.
“So, now that the land deal has closed, we have an even better opportunity to continue making the business case as to why the Bears should remain in Chicago and why adaptations to Soldier Field can meet and exceed all of the Bears’ future needs,” the statement read.
If Lightfoot is serious about another renovation of Soldier Field by adding a dome, it could cost more than $2,000 per Chicago household.