Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey kicked off opening day of the National Football League’s season Thursday by pitching a new stadium and entertainment district to residents in the Windy city’s Northwest suburbs as the team explores possibly leaving Soldier Field.
The team has already agreed to buy a 326-acre property in Arlington Heights, Illinois, that was the site of a horse racecourse owned by Churchill Downs Inc. The deal has yet to close but the agreement has spurred intense debate about the future home of the Bears, who have played at Chicago’s Soldier Field for half a century.
McCaskey told hundreds gathered in a suburban high school gym Thursday that the proposal could bring millions of dollars in economic activity year round to the town, region and state. Still, there is no guarantee it will develop the land even if the deal closes, he said. Also, during the time the team is under contract to buy the property, it will not explore other options including renovations to Soldier Field, which city officials have proposed.
“We are at the very beginning of a process to explore what might be possible at the Arlington Park site. There are still many unknowns,” McCaskey said. “We think development of the site including a stadium is a win for Bears fans, the village of Arlington Heights, the surrounding communities and the state of Illinois.”
Construction of the domed stadium and surrounding complex could create more than 48,000 jobs with $9.4 billion in economic impact for the region, according to the team. The development may 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, the team estimates.
The economic benefits from a new stadium project are often inflated and it’s certainly a risk for Arlington Heights, betting that people will come to the development around the arena even when the Bears aren’t playing, said Victor Matheson, an economist at the College of the Holy Cross who specializes in sports and stadium financing.
“It’s a tremendous gamble,” he said, because NFL stadiums are not used regularly as the team plays only a handful of home games a year and would be competing for concerts and other events with Solider Field which is more central to the city.
The Bears will not seek public funding for construction of the stadium but may seek local dollars for infrastructure such as roads for the broader complex, McCaskey said.
The assurance comes amid national debate about the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for stadiums owned by private owners. Soldier Field is owned by the Chicago Park District.
Recently, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team promised the use of private financing instead of taxpayer dollars to build an arena. The $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles was entirely privately financed and the Oakland Athletics have said they would foot the cost for their new ballpark, though the city may provide funds for related infrastructure.
“A tremendous opportunity is present today but we will need help to make it a reality,” said McCaskey, who added the search for a home specific to the Bears started with his grandfather and the team’s founder George Halas.
Ha Ha! Back in the day the regulars knew which Andy Frain guys didn't care if your hand was stamped or not. just throw your hand real quick under the black light and act like you belong. Saved a buck. Felt like you just had a winner.The era of the clubhouse transfer
Hawthorne. How is that Casino and Hotel construction going. LOL! That ownership has always been a total joke. Always done things on the cheap. Amazing how they are the only ones left in Chicago.At Hawthorne these days, you need to produce an i.d. to enter the PointsBet sports book area.
And then they want to stamp your hand if you want to go in and out.
I'll produce my i.d. every time.
Ha Ha! Back in the day the regulars knew which Andy Frain guys didn't care if your hand was stamped or not. just throw your hand real quick under the black light and act like you belong. Saved a buck. Felt like you just had a winner.
Went a few years back. They had a bunch of old time drivers for the people to meet. i talked to Kim Hankins and Randy Jacobs. i knew them a little when i was on the backstretch in the early to mid 80's.It's Super Night at Hawthorne tonight.
Would love to see a picture of JK in his Andy Frain uniform. Did Frain have any rules back then about appearance? Like no long hair?
Went a few years back. They had a bunch of old time drivers for the people to meet. i talked to Kim Hankins and Randy Jacobs. i knew them a little when i was on the backstretch in the early to mid 80's.
Was going to go tonight but something else came up so can't make it.