Bears looking for resident feedback on potential new Arlington Heights stadium

ByJohn Garcia, Eric Horng, and Christian Piekos via WLS logo
Friday, September 9, 2022
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The Chicago Bears held their first community meeting in Arlington Heights will help gauge interest in not only a football stadium, but an entertainment district as well.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill (WLS) -- The Chicago Bears held their first community meeting in Arlington Heights will help gauge interest in not only a football stadium, but an entertainment district as well.

The Bears shared part of their playbook for the possible stadium development, which they said could take 10 years to construct.

RELATED | Bears release renderings of possible Arlington Park stadium district, seek public money for project

"We know the community well, and like you, we want what's best for the community," said Bears Chairman George McCaskey.

"Our primary goal is to unleash significant economic and tax benefits to Chicagoland," said President and CEO Ted Phillips.

The meeting was held at Hersey High School.

"I think it's going to change the whole dynamics of the town," said Arlington Heights resident Tina Jacob.

The team envisions a sweeping, year-round entertainment mecca. And while the Bears say they're not seeking public money for the enclosed stadium and surrounding complex, they are seeking public money for an adjacent multi-use district that would include restaurants, retail and public spaces.

"Without infrastructure support and property tax certainty, the project as described to you tonight will not be able to move forward," McCaskey said.

"I'm all for it. Let's not miss this opportunity. It's laying right out there for us," said Brian Yantis, Arlington Heights resident.

"The devil's in the details. What's that number going to be? And how's it going to impact everybody in comparison to what added value they may be bringing to the community?" wondered Julie Postma of Palatine .

"I think it would be great for Arlington Heights," Arlington Heights resident Eve Swire said. "I think it would increase some traffic and I know some people are concerned about that, but I think ultimately it would be really great for the city."

"I'm all for it. I think they should," Bears fan Luke DiPalermo said. "It's all vacant property over there and they got how many hundreds of acres."

"It's pretty exciting for people that live around the stadium," said Michael Reppe, owner of Rep's Place sports bar. "I know the headaches leading up to it, but I think in the end it will pay off tenfold."

The mammoth 326-acre potential development would include an enclosed stadium, shops, restaurants, office space and even a hotel.

RELATED | Chicago Bears' Soldier Field gets new Bermuda grass surface installed just in time for season opener

"Soldier Field is really inaccessible almost," Mount Prospect resident Pat D'Andrea said. "Arlington Heights obviously is close for us and assuming they do all the infrastructure build up it would be much more convenient to go to."

If completed, the team says it could have a $9.4 billion impact on the greater Chicagoland economy and lead to the creation of nearly 50,000 jobs with construction.

However, there is some pushback, with the Bears asking for public funds to construct not the stadium but for the entertainment district.

"I guess I wouldn't want public dollars used for it," Swire said. "I do think again it would be a great thing for Arlington Heights to have some establishments over there."

The bold proposal comes weeks after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed building a dome over Soldier Field in an attempt to keep the Monsters of the Midway in their longtime home.

"We've got plan B, plan C and others in the works, as well if the Bears decide they are going to abandon the City of Chicago," Lightfoot said during a press conference revealing the new plans.

They are expected to release a few more details at their first public hearing Thursday night. Supporters and opponents alike are anxious to hear what they say.

"This would be a huge investment and it could revamp the northwest suburbs," said Mario Farfan, with Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents of public funding for a new stadium presented petitions to the Arlington Heights city council earlier this week. But a number of other NFL teams before the Bears have moved and built stadiums in the suburbs.

"It has exceeded financial projections for us," said Trey Yelverton, the city manager of Arlington, Texas.

Twelve years ago the city of Arlington, Texas shared the cost of building AT&T stadium with the Dallas Cowboys. Their voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum which raised Arlington's sales tax by half a percent and implemented a 5% rental car tax as well as a 10% tax on tickets to stadium events and a flat $3 parking tax. And they say it's worked out well for them so far.

"That's what we wanted," Yelberton said. "To have America's team play in the finest facility and start drawing economic activity all around it."

Thursday's community meeting will take place at John Hersey High School from 7-9 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and attendance is first come, first serve until capacity is reached.