Bears to pull back from Arlington Park tax break bill - at least for this fall

The Bears announced Wednesday they won't pursue legislation in Springfield this fall that would give them a massive long-term property tax break for a new stadium.

Still, that doesn't mean the Payments in Lieu of Taxes financing concept - contained in the bill sponsored by state Rep. Marty Moylan - couldn't return in the new year.

Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said the decision not to pursue legislative support for the so-called PILOT bill during the General Assembly's upcoming veto session comes as the club wants to "appropriately explore all opportunities for the development of a world-class stadium."

"Our process to find the best stadium solution for our franchise, our fans and the region continues to be methodical and intentional," Warren said in a statement. "Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Brandon Johnson and his team, we have recently engaged in positive and productive discussions with the City of Chicago. We also continue to have dialogue with officials in Arlington Heights and other Chicagoland locations about a Chicago Bears stadium project."

After failing to gain traction in the spring, the Bears bill was expected to be a major focus of the veto session, set for Oct. 24-26 and Nov. 7-9. Lobbyists already were lining up to represent their clients' interests - the Bears and three Arlington Heights-area school districts chief among them. Arlington Heights village officials hired lobbyists of their own in recent weeks.

The legislation - also supported by a coalition of business groups and unions - would freeze the assessment at the Bears' 326-acre Arlington Park property and allow the NFL franchise to make negotiated payments to local taxing bodies such as schools.

The latest version of the bill backed by Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, would add a $3-per-ticket tax on every admission to a new Bears stadium to help pay down Chicago's debt from the 2002 renovation of Soldier Field.

Moylan also has proposed nearby municipalities get a cut of state revenues from taxes on sales, hotel, liquor and sports wagering at the new Bears development. Arlington Heights would get 30%, Palatine and Rolling Meadows would each get 14%, and Cook County, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg and Wheeling would each get 6%.

The Bears' decision to pause lobbying in Springfield on the tax break bill doesn't mean they've stopped lobbying on the local level for public support for a new stadium, wherever it may be.

In a letter to season ticket holders last Friday, Warren wrote the club is looking for a "public-private partnership," and plans to narrow and define a stadium location in the near future.

Despite closing on the $197.2 million sale of the shuttered racetrack in February, the team announced in June the Arlington Heights site was no longer its singular focus, amid an ongoing property tax dispute with the three school districts in the area.

"We have emphasized to all these leaders that any stadium effort would be backed by considerable private investment that would lead to significant economic impact and job creation opportunities across Chicagoland," Warren wrote. "In each instance, we also stressed the need for stability and predictability along with an appropriate partnership commensurate with the long-term public benefits of the project."

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  Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren, pictured in June at a community meeting in Arlington Heights, announced Wednesday the team wouldn't pursue legislation this fall that would give the club a massive property tax break at Arlington Park. John Starks/, June 2023
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