‘I love the city’: Bears president keeping stadium location options open, but embraces ‘really special’ downtown

Chicago Bears President/CEO Kevin Warren said Wednesday he’s keeping his options open about the location of a new stadium — whether it be Arlington Heights or Chicago - but he reserved his most positive comments for the city.

“I live downtown. I love the city. I just think we're blessed to be able to live in a city like Chicago. It has many pluses,” Warren said during an end-of-season news conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. “I’m just a big proponent of the Chicagoland area. I’m a big proponent of Arlington Heights, but there’s something that’s really special about downtown Chicago.”

Warren on Wednesday emphasized attributes of the downtown business community, lakefront, art exhibits, food and music, while addressing the status of the NFL franchise’s stadium search a year into taking the job as the fifth team president. He took questions after General Manager Ryan Poles and Head Coach Matt Eberflus spoke to reporters.

Warren was asked if the Bears’ 326-acre Arlington Park property — which they purchased for $197.2 million nearly a year ago — is still a priority for building a new stadium.

“The priority is to make sure that we build a world-class stadium for our fans,” Warren said. “We still own the property in Arlington Heights. We’re still in communication with the individuals in Arlington Heights. We have had meetings with individuals in the city of Chicago. So we're focused on making sure you take the approach of doing the right thing.”

“That stadium — that’s a 40-year decision, and we need to make sure that we get that right and that we're very deliberate in our thought process,” he added.

Warren said the next steps are to settle on a location, and make sure it makes sense from a financial standpoint. That would include getting the tax situation “squared away,” he said.

The Daily Herald reported in December that officials from Arlington Heights, the Bears, Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15 have been working on a memorandum of understanding to resolve the months-long property tax dispute between the Bears and schools.

“We’ve stayed in communication. I know there’s been some outreach that we need to follow up on to make sure we continue that dialogue,” Warren said. “This is a long process. I expect some time here in the near future that our attorneys and their attorneys will continue to have dialogue. We’ve had a very respectful relationship with the districts.”

He said he didn’t see the property tax battle as a roadblock to finalizing a decision to build at the old racetrack site, adding that there’s many other factors.

Warren said his goal is to build “the most progressive, smartly-priced, on-time, under-budget” stadium project in NFL history. And as much as he said he doesn’t want to rush into a decision on a stadium locale, he acknowledged construction pricing will go up because “in that world, time is money.”

“I’m neurotic about making sure things make financial sense. This is a large amount of money. You can’t enter into these decisions haphazardly and kinda decide as you go,” he said.

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