Cook County Board of Review: Arlington Park Valuation Stays at $192 Million

Chicago Bears Arlngton Heights Property Concept (SOURCE: Chicago Bears; Courtesy of Hart, Howerton/Chicago Bears).
Chicago Bears Arlngton Heights Property Concept (SOURCE: Chicago Bears; Courtesy of Hart, Howerton/Chicago Bears).

The Cook County property tax appeal by the Chicago Bears regarding the value of the Arlington Park property was rejected Wednesday, February 14, 2024 by the Cook County Board of Review. The value of the 326-acre site owned by the Chicago Bears will remain at $192 million.

Attorneys representing the Chicago Bears said the property should be valued at $60 million, while three area school districts suggest $160 million. With the two sides $100 million apart, the Cook County Board of Review said negotiations can continue through Saturday, February 18, 2024, when a period to accept a settlement officially closes.

Three area school districts — Community Consolidated School District 15, High School District 211, and High School District 214 are pushing for the higher valuation.

The Chicago Bears purchased the 309-acre Arlington Park property for $197.2 million in February 2023. Demolition of the horse racing track structures, including the grandstand began in May 2023; and the Chicago Bears hoped the quick elimination of structures on the property would reduce property taxes. The Cook County Assessor assessed its 2023 fair market value at $192 million in June 2023.

Although the Chicago Bears are still open to building a new stadium, entertainment district and residential development in Arlington Heights, momentum may have shifted to the City of Chicago.

Earlier this month, Crain’s Chicago Business reported the Chicago Bears have focused on a new stadium near the Chicago lakefront. The report refers to “multiple sources in government and close to the team” claiming that staying in Chicago is the “real goal.”

The Bears have a lease at Soldier Field through 2033. The NFL’s oldest stadium is too small to host a Super Bowl with a football game capacity of only 61,500 fans.

A stadium in the City of Chicago could be developed just south of the existing Soldier Field; however, there are concerns about crime in the city’s south side, and the logistics of fans getting to a Bears stadium on the lakefront, since all transportation and traffic at the stadium is cut off on the east side because of Lake Michigan.

“The Bears are committed to being in Chicagoland,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in an interview connected to Super Bowl events last weekend. Goodell said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson wants the stadium in the city, while Arlington wants the stadium out in Arlington.

Arlington Park offers a direct Metra connection and better road access all around, but road access on all sides of an Arlington Park Chicago Bears stadium would require infrastructure improvements. Many residents are worried about traffic traveling on the east side, for example on Euclid Avenue, which is predominantly two lanes in Arlington Heights.

The Chicago Bears concept renderings for the Arlington Park site presented in 2023 were vague, and did not represent a detailed stadium at all — just a generic white block. However, recently released detailed renderings for a new Chicago White Sox stadium in Chicago’s South Loop showed an attractive backdrop of the city skyline beyond center field, including stadium appearance details. Whether that signals any measure of serious intent comparing the two projects is uncertain.

Ultimately, the Chicago Bears might see a greater financial return with a project at Arlington Park with profits from tourism, entertainment venues, concerts, other sports events, residential and recreational developments in a better-planned, integrated, modern project. However, the cost up front, especially with the property tax factor compared to possible better financial incentives in the City of Chicago, may be too risky.

Ironically, the school district boards could become enemies to the northwest suburban population — perceived as a greedy tax bodies with over-reaching demand on the Bears project, killing a potential financial windfall for the Arlington Park property. Even if the Bears drop off the map at Arlington Park, a dense residential project, for example, with associated infrastructure development could involve high expenses and large school children populations with much less financial return on the balance sheet for the school districts. Could the school boards find it more difficult to find tax income to cover expenses from a project other than a Chicago Bears stadium?

A dense residential project at Arlington Park could also bring daily traffic headaches, while sporting events and concerts would only bring sporadic traffic headaches.

Regarding whatever is built at Arlington Park, there will be high costs for infrastructure development, and there will be tax bodies striving to get the most tax income for their expenses.

See also …
Understanding School Finance – 12 Questions and Answers [PDF]

Preliminary Master Plan Version Aerial (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears)
Preliminary Master Plan Version Aerial (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears).
Preliminary Master Plan Version looking southeast down the mall (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears)
Preliminary Master Plan Version looking southeast down the mall (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears).
Preliminary Master Plan Version map (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears)
Preliminary Master Plan Version map (SOURCE: Harthowerton/Chicago Bears).



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