Jim O'Donnell: Seasoned Arlington developer splashes doubt on Bears' lakefront play ploy

“HAMSTER WHEEL STADIUM DEVELOPMENT” — also known as the McCaskey Bears — has expanded its paw pedaling to nowhere this week.

Spurred by the bait-and-elevate of a clearly controlled media campaign, those McBears have taken their grand organizational cul-de-sac away from Arlington Park for the time being. Now its dream target area is back on the Chicago lakefront.

For the time being.

One person who is chuckling at it all is David Trandel. He's the savvy suburban business owner who — in the current millennium — has developed more property value than anyone else within the golden trapezoid that includes the 326 acres of Arlington Park.

AMONG OTHER THINGS, Trandel says that:

— The Bears' back-to-Chicago gambit is a bluff;

— Even if it isn't, the formidable Friends of the Park will not let it happen without long and draining trench warfare; and,

— Gumming up the once-in-a-corporate lifetime Arlington Park window is so Bears.

“Everyone wants to put their fingerprints on this deal even though no one apparently knows how to do simple arithmetic,” said Trandel, who is the president of Primestone Residential.

(Less than a decade ago, Trandel and associates with Stoneleigh Companies completed the $80 million redevelopment of the dormant Arlington Sheraton into the 214-unit luxury residential “Arlington One.”)

HE ALSO SAID: “The reality is that the city is in desperate need of tax dollars. It has a declining tax base and it must shift its focus to drawing in new investment rather than relying on the failed policy of more tax hikes on businesses and individuals.

“Few in the new administration (of first-year Mayor Brandon Johnson) have ever run a successful business. Even worse, they are neophyte politicians chasing a fairy tale agenda of relying on the federal government and state aid to bail out 'feel good' ideas.

“The resistance to the lakefront development should be preemptive. The city did not provide all that was needed for George Lucas's museum to take hold, which was an international mega-tourist draw and far more civically minded than an NFL stadium. The new stadium idea, while great for the city of Chicago, faces a long, drawn-out battle with no clear outcome.

“Everyone loves downtown Chicago. It is a world-class, 24/7 city with an infrastructure second to none. But why does the city and park district need to own the stadium? As a season-ticket holder, I want the Bears to own their own stadium, allowing them to make more money and provide a better product on the field.”

TRANDEL CONTINUES TO HARBOR significant curiosity about the internal economic projections of the Bears, especially when it comes down to the choice, open land they own in Arlington Heights vs. a speculative claim jump on the Chicago lakefront.

“To me, it seems counterintuitive to invest $2 billion in a property you don't own or have control over,” he said. “(Bears president) Kevin Warren is a smart guy so I still contend that he is checking all the boxes and possibly using the city as a stalking horse to firm up the team's needs with suburban officials.

“But,” the University of Iowa graduate concluded, “We live in a kooky world. For now, I think Caitlin Clark is transformative and a WNBA franchise would be a fun buy.”

Even an exhausted McHamster would probably agree.


Greg Gumbel of CBS will miss his first NCAA men's basketball tournament since 1998 because of “a family health issue.” Turner's Ernie Johnson will pick up much of the slack. The “Selection Sunday” field reveal will feature Clark Kellogg, Jay Wright, Seth Davis and anchor Adam Zucker (5 p.m.). Over/under on Matt Painter and boil-a-gagger Purdue will remain anything beyond the Sweet Sixteen. …

Illinois plus Chris Collins and depleted Northwestern high-bye all the way into Friday at the Big Ten Tournament (11 a.m. first tip of four, BTN). Today, primary local focus is on Loyola. Drew Valentine and the Ramblers open at 4 p.m. (USA Network). They must out-kick co-Atlantic 10 champ Dayton to assure an NCAA berth. Valentine, 32, is assured of being a hot commodity for a new job next month. …

DePaul and Matt Brady — the interim head coach, not the Civil War photographer — elected to stay on the East Coast all the way from their regular-season finale at Seton Hall Saturday through their Big East tourney opener (and closer) vs. Villanova Wednesday night. Brady the photog saw less despair and hopelessness. Forget about talk of a new head coach — the bottom-dwelling Blue Demons need to generate $3M in annual NIL money to reemerge as a competitive program. …

And Barney Stone, on reports of Aaron Rodgers or Jesse Ventura as possibilities to wind up as the running mate of presidential longshot Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: “Perfect … with Bill Belichick as Secretary of State, we'll be invading Florida by Super Bowl Sunday.”

Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

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