Hoffman Estates has sunk $87.6M into unprofitable Sears Centre

Hoffman Estates has sunk $87.6M into unprofitable Sears Centre

The village of Hoffman Estates took over Sears Centre Arena in 2009, but the multi-purpose stadium has yet to turn an annual profit on its own.

Taxpayers in Hoffman Estates are seeing a significant portion of their tax dollars subsidize Sears Centre Arena, a local entertainment venue that suffers annual losses.

Sears Centre Arena is home to the Chicago Mustangs of the Major Arena Soccer League and the Windy City Bulls of the NBA G League, as well as a variety of entertainment events. The village assumed ownership of Sears Centre Arena in December 2009, and has since spent $87.6 million operating the arena. The village spends on the arena like it was a core service, with the Sears Centre amounting to 13 percent of expenses – more than the village spent on highways and streets – in 2017.

Hoffman Estates has spent more than $87 million on the Sears Centre since 2010

But the results have been poor, with the arena seeing an average annual loss of $1.8 million since 2010, according to the village’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.

The village frequently covers the arena’s losses by transferring additional money from its general fund into the Sears Centre Operating Fund. The arena has received more than $10 million in transfers from the village alone since 2010. Whereas a privately funded arena would be forced to turn a profit at some point, village officials continually tap taxpayers to make up for the arena’s shortcomings.

Taxpayers subsidize Sears Centre Arena losses

Net income projections for the arena found in the village’s annual budgets have been consistently out of touch with reality. Since 2010, annual projections have overestimated the arena’s net income by $1.7 million on average.

Amid growing pension obligations and cuts to state assistance, Hoffman Estates residents have seen an increase in the village’s property tax levy. In Cook County, where Hoffman Estates is located, total property taxes billed this year increased by 5 percent.

Too many Illinois taxpayers find themselves shouldering the costs of ill-advised sports stadium ventures. Illinoisans are still on the hook for debts incurred by Guaranteed Rate Field, home to the Chicago White Sox, and the construction of Wintrust Arena, home to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and DePaul University’s basketball teams. Despite having received millions in taxpayer subsidies, both arenas have seen disappointing attendance trends.

Crestwood, Joliet and Schaumburg have publicly financed stadiums for independent-league baseball teams, each of which has endured underwhelming attendance trends. More recently, in 2017, the village of Rosemont approved the construction of Impact Field, home to the independent Chicago Dogs. The field was financed using funds from the village’s eighth tax increment financing district.

Taxpayers in the state capital are seeing their tax dollars fund the Bank of Springfield Center, another unprofitable arena.

Illinoisans shoulder one of the heaviest tax burdens in the nation. Putting an end to publicly funded entertainment venues would help ease residents’ tax burdens and reserve hard-earned tax dollars for core services. Hoffman Estates, as well as other municipalities subsidizing unprofitable arenas, would be better off leaving the sports and entertainment business to private hands.

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