Arlington Heights Should Reject Bears Stadium Subsidies | Citizens Against Government Waste

Arlington Heights Should Reject Bears Stadium Subsidies

The WasteWatcher

The National Football League’s (NFL) Chicago Bears have called Soldier Field their home for the past 51 years, and their lease does not expire until 2033.  It is the oldest field in the NFL and has the smallest capacity at 61,000 in the nation’s third-largest city.  Despite the 11 years remaining on the lease, the team has already made clear its intention to move before it ends to the suburb of Arlington Heights, where residents have not exactly welcomed the team with open arms.  They are preemptively pushing back with a petition drive that would require a vote on an ordinance proposal to bar the Chicago suburb from allocating taxpayer funds to incentivize private entities, like the Bears, to move to the area. 

If it receives the requisite 550 signatures, the petition will bring the proposed ordinance before the village board for a vote.  If the board rejects the ordinance, the petitioners will then have an opportunity to circulate the petition again, but this time to place the ordinance proposal on the ballot for the April 2023 municipal elections.  So far, the village board has not made any public offers to provide financial support or incentives to the Bears franchise.

The news about the petition comes as the NFL is supporting the storied franchise in its push to leave its home in the Windy City for life in the suburbs.  In 2021, the McCaskey family, owners of the Bears franchise, purchased the Arlington Racecourse International at Arlington Park, a former horse racing facility, where a new stadium would be constructed.  On July 7, 2022, in response to a proposal to reports that Chicago was going to make a proposal to put a roof on Soldier Field in an attempt to keep the Bears in town, the team issued the following statement:  “The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract.”

The city, however, is not giving up without a fight.  On July 25, 2022, Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a proposal for three options to renovate Soldier Field.  Seating would expand from 61,500 to 70,000; suites would increase from 133 to 140; the food area would quadruple from 50,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet; and there would be more flexibility for multi-purpose events and additional club and activation areas.  If there was more than one major league team, like the Major League Soccer Chicago Fire Football Club the cost would be about $900 million and if the Bears were the only team, it would be up to $2.2 billion.

So far, the mayor’s efforts to win over the franchise by proposing to block out its infamous weather have been met with derision.  The Bears continue to maintain that they are committed to moving to Arlington Heights and have no interest in remaining in a renovated Soldier Field.

If the owners of the Bears want to move from their longtime home on Lake Michigan, that is their choice.  They should not, however, expect any municipality, whether it is Chicago or Arlington Heights, to force taxpayers to help with the stadium or improvements around the stadium.  History has shown time and again that publicly funded professional stadiums add to the coffers of billionaires while providing in no economic benefit to taxpayers.  Residents of Arlington Heights are right to push back on any form of corporate welfare that uses taxpayer money to build a professional stadium.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Optional Member Code