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Pro-Bears-to-Arlington Heights group sends school districts a message

 
A table of eight signs letters, as Touchdown Arlington, the pro-Bears-to-Arlington Heights business coalition, hosts a letter-writing party and discussion at Jimmy D’s District, a bar on Northwest Highway near the proposed stadium development site Wednesday.
John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com

The Bears say they’ve shifted their focus to developing a new domed stadium on Chicago’s lakefront, but a pro-Bears-to-Arlington Heights business coalition isn’t giving up on Arlington Park just yet.

In the shadow of the shuttered racetrack property the NFL franchise now owns, Touchdown Arlington hosted a rally and letter-writing party Wednesday night at Jimmy D’s District sports bar to show there’s still plenty of support for a Bears move to the suburbs.

Attendees signed their names to pre-written letters that will be sent to members of three Arlington Heights-area school boards that have been engaged in a property tax dispute with the NFL club for nearly a year, urging them to accept a village proposal to break the stalemate.

The group said it gathered more than 1,500 signed letters in support of the proposal presented at the March 18 village board meeting for a tax compromise between the Bears and Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

In one of the letters attendees were given the choice to sign, it said the “short-term village proposal” would result in a tax bill of $6.3 million for 2023 and $3.6 million for 2024, “when the property will be considered vacant land for the full year. This plan provides the school districts a significant tax base while also providing the Bears a reasonable path forward to pursue development.”

Under a Cook County Board of Review ruling, the Bears would have to pay nearly $9 million in 2023 taxes, according to Arlington Heights Village Manager Randy Recklaus.

“Arlington Heights should be the future home of the Chicago Bears.,” Touchdown Arlington coalition member Ernie Rose said. “Unfortunately, recent reports show that the Bears are considering remaining in Chicago. This is the result of an unnecessary stalemate with our school boards, and it is incumbent on our school boards to support the village proposal and do their part to get past this unnecessary hurdle.”

However, in a statement, the school districts said, “The Bears signed an agreement to purchase the Arlington Park property in September of 2021 under Ted Phillips. We understand that as the new CEO, Kevin Warren wants to explore Chicago first. We still believe that Arlington Heights remains their best option. The three school districts negotiated in good faith and, early in 2024, offered the CBFC (Chicago Bears Football Club) multiple options for long-term tax certainty that they repeatedly shared they needed to move forward with the redevelopment of the 326-acre parcel in Arlington Heights. The Bears rejected all of these offers.”

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