Arlington Heights set to launch massive planning process for new Bears stadium

While the Bears were playing in Pittsburgh during Monday night's nationally televised broadcast, officials at Arlington Heights' village hall were making preparations for the extensive review and approval process for the team's proposed new stadium at Arlington Park.

That could include bringing on consultants to help with the massive redevelopment at the racetrack site, completing a fiscal analysis on the costs and benefits, and working with the NFL team's management on a land use plan that will address all concerns.

The internal effort is expected to involve nearly every village department, including planning and community development, building and life safety, finance, police, fire, public works and integrated services.

“The redevelopment project there will be like no project any of us have ever worked on,” Village Manager Randy Recklaus told the village staff and board members on the first night of discussions for the 2022 village budget.

Amid the public health and economic effects of the pandemic, 2021 “has been a really long year,” Recklaus declared.

“Any of you who think 2022 will be any slower need look no further than the top right-hand corner of this slide,” said the village's top administrator, referencing a picture of thoroughbred horses spinning out of the turn at the now-shuttered racetrack.

The review process is expected to take up much of 2022, as a closing on the team's pending $197.2 million purchase of Arlington Park isn't expected until late 2022 or early 2023

As hinted by Mayor Tom Hayes a month ago, Recklaus confirmed Monday that village officials are planning to retain consultants to help the village staff with the large-scale redevelopment. Officials are researching what type of help they may need, based on the experiences of other municipalities that have reviewed and approved similar stadium projects. Further discussions are planned in the next several weeks.

The village's finance department will also conduct an analysis of the impacts of the proposed redevelopment.

“While it's very different, we have to look at it with the same values and standards as we do with any other development,” Recklaus said.

The exact budgetary and operational impact of the various studies and research needed for the Arlington Park-Bears redevelopment is currently unknown, Recklaus wrote in his executive summary of the budget.

He added during the meeting that the village will have to be “adaptable and nimble” amid the likelihood of midyear budget changes related to Arlington Park's redevelopment.

But there is at least one line item in the 488-page proposed spending plan related to the project: a $50,000 placeholder for professional consulting services.

That may be related to what Assistant Village Manager Diana Mikula called “public outreach” as part of the redevelopment.

The village is also budgeting $50,000 for a fireworks vendor to put on a show at a new, to-be-determined location, as Arlington Park had long played host to a display around July 4. Village officials say they're working with their counterparts in the Arlington Heights Park District on a potential location and program.

Recklaus said the Bears project will present “significant demands” on village staff time and will compete with other initiatives in the coming year.

“I'm going to have to be saying ‘no' to a lot of ideas that come up because this is going to be something that will take up a lot of our bandwidth, and we're just going to have to accept that,” Recklaus said.

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