More than 650 Arlington Heights residents sign petition calling for ordinance barring public financing of the project.
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Bears have released their plans and renderings for what could be the franchise's new home in Arlington Heights. The renderings come in a letter to local residents ahead of Thursday night's meeting at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
The team released the letter on their website Tuesday afternoon, detailing what will be more than just a football stadium but "a multi-purpose entertainment district," the letter reads.
It is, in a word, ambitious: a sweeping entertainment mecca anchored by an enclosed stadium that the Bears would call home, though the design has yet to be determined.
But in addition to the stadium complex, there would be a mixed-use district that would include restaurants, offices, and even residential housing.
"The diversification that the Bears are talking about doing is, I believe, to help offset costs that are associated with the stadium," said Marc Ganis, a sports business consultant with Sportscorp.
In the open letter, the Bears say the project would create 48,000 jobs and a $9.4 billion economic impact to the region, with the potential to attract year-round events including the Super Bowl, college football playoffs and Final Four.
The Bears are not asking for public money for the stadium itself. But, the team said it's seeking "additional funding and assistance" for that mixed-use district, which the Bears said offers "long-term public benefits."
"What they're also saying is that the other development is important to make the entirety of the project go, and it's going to need some public assistance," Ganis said.
But the idea of public funding is unpopular with some.
"Let me be clear. No public money is needed to develop this particular site," said Martin Bauer, an Arlington Heights resident.
Arlington Heights Village Board members presented a petition Tuesday night signed by more than 650 Arlington Heights residents calling for an ordinance that would bar public financing of the project.
"Over and over again, we've seen stadium deals and corporate welfare projects turn sour for taxpayers across Illinois," said Brian Costin of Americans for Prosperity Illinois. We don't have any problems with the Bears coming... We just think that they are... they should pay for it. They have enough money to pay for it themselves."
It comes as the city seeks to keep the Bears in Chicago, proposing weeks ago to put a dome on Soldier Field.
"We've got plan B, plan C, and others in the works as well if the Bears decide to abandon the city of Chicago," Lightfoot said.
The Arlington Heights Village Manager declined to comment on the Bears proposal, saying the village has not been presented anything formal to review. He said the village is preparing to announce several public meetings to gather community input.
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.
Read the full letter below:
In September 2021, the Chicago Bears signed an agreement for the purpose of acquiring 326 acres of property in Arlington Heights to secure the potential of beginning a new and exciting chapter there. We remain under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met in order to be in a position to close. If we do close on the property, it does not guarantee we will develop it. While under contract with the seller of Arlington Park, we will not be discussing or exploring any other alternative stadium sites or opportunities, including renovations of Soldier Field. Much remains to be decided, but any decision will be made in the best interests of the Bears long-term future, our fans and the Chicagoland community.
If the team does proceed with the purchase of the Arlington Park property, and if the Bears organization then chooses to proceed with the development of the property, the project will be one of the largest development projects in Illinois state history. We envision a multi-purpose entertainment district anchored by a new, best-in-class enclosed stadium, providing Chicagoland with a new home worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoffs, and Final Four.
Make no mistake, this is much more than a stadium project. Any development of Arlington Park will propose to include a multi-purpose entertainment, commercial/retail, and housing district that will provide considerable economic benefits to Cook County, the surrounding region and State of Illinois. The long-term project vision for the entire property is an ongoing work-in-progress, but could include: restaurants, office space, hotel, fitness center, new parks and open spaces, and other improvements for the community to enjoy.
Above all, the Bears organization is committed to ensuring the project serves Cook County, the Chicagoland community and people of Illinois 365 days a year. If the decision is made to develop Arlington Park, it would yield significant economic benefits commensurate with the scale of the project. Construction of the proposed project is projected to create more than 48,000 jobs, result in $9.4 billion in economic impact for Chicagoland, and provide $3.9 billion in labor income to workers across the region, while the completed project will create more than 9,750 long-term jobs, result in $1.4 billion in annual economic impact for Chicagoland and provide $601 million in annual labor income to workers across Chicagoland. We also anticipate that the development will generate $16 million in annual tax revenue in addition to property taxes for Arlington Heights, $9.8 million for Cook County, and $51.3 million for the State of Illinois.
While the Bears will seek no public funding for direct stadium structure construction, given the broad, long-term public benefits of this project, we look forward to partnering with the various governmental bodies to secure additional funding and assistance needed to support the feasibility of the remainder of the development.
We are taking serious steps to evaluate the unique opportunity presented to us. The Bears remain committed to Soldier Field and will honor the terms of its lease. While the prospect of a transit-oriented mixed-use and entertainment district anchored by a new enclosed stadium is exciting for the Bears and the entire state, there is much work to be done before we can close on the property, and then, whether we will develop it. We look forward to working with key partners and stakeholders across the Chicagoland community and State of Illinois in the months ahead.