'This is not a minor project': Arlington Park teardown to cost Bears $3.8 million

Demolition of the towering grandstand and other structures at Arlington Park will cost the Chicago Bears $3.8 million, documents filed with the village show.

The Bears filed two separate building permit applications at Arlington Heights village hall earlier this month, according to the records released Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

One is for interior demolition of the six-story grandstand and the two-story office and jockey building. The other is for the full-scale teardown of those buildings, plus the west and east entrances, paddock, concession, main shed, scoreboard and guard house.

The contractor on the job is St. Charles-based Alpine Demolition Services, records show.

Work is first set to begin on internal demolition before the wrecking ball meets the outside of the grandstand and other structures, the Bears have said.

While the village's building and life safety department hasn't yet approved the permit applications, dated May 3 and May 4, officials signaled that approval is forthcoming.

“The village does not have any authority to withhold approval of demolition for any reason if the application is complete and if a property owner's demolition plans comply with the village code,” said Mayor Tom Hayes, adding that officials are now reviewing the Bears' applications.

Hayes said the village doesn't have discretion when it comes to issuing commercial demolition permits, as it does for residential properties and in the downtown.

Village Manager Randy Recklaus said he expects the permit applications to be processed in the next few weeks.

“They have to follow our code. They have to follow our processes. And there's back and forth, where we will ask them, 'What's going to be your method of managing dust? Where are your trucks going to be coming in?'” Recklaus said. “Like any permit, there's a certain amount of supervision to ensure that they're doing this in a way that's going to have as little of an impact on the village as possible and can be done as safely as possible.”

But, he added, “This is not a minor project.”

Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said the club sought the demolition approvals to “reduce our operating cost and lower the assessed value of the land so that we can realize a realistic property tax during the predevelopment period,” according to a May 4 letter Warren sent to superintendents of three area school districts.

Warren appeared to use the pending building teardowns as a bargaining chip amid ongoing negotiations with the school leaders over assessments and property tax payments at the 326-acre shuttered racetrack. The Bears and school districts — Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 — are far apart on what they think the NFL franchise's newly-purchased property is worth and how much the team should pay in taxes.

The schools said the land should be valued at $95 million; the Bears would be responsible for paying $7.9 million in annual property taxes for the next two years. The Bears have countered with a land value of $52.5 million and annual tax payments of $4.3 million.

But the schools could get less if the buildings are razed, Warren suggested.

“We anticipate that the demolition of the improvements will result in an equitable assessed value that will produce property taxes that are significantly less than the amount of taxes we would have expected and been willing to pay if there had been a negotiated property tax settlement,” Warren wrote.

Also Tuesday, a hearing was delayed on state Rep. Marty Moylan's revised legislation that would give the Bears an assessment freeze while also helping pay for the old Soldier Field renovation debt. That hearing is now set for Wednesday morning before the House Executive Committee.

But Moylan conceded the legislation doesn't yet have the 60 required votes to pass in the House before the spring session concludes at the end of the week.

“We're moving forward to get that ball across the goal line,” the Des Plaines Democrat said. “We're going to work it over the summer. We gotta make sure we get it right. It's a multibillion dollar project.”

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