Daily Herald opinion: Twists abound in the drama of ‘The Bears and The ’Burbs’

When news broke last week that Bears officials had shifted their focus from Arlington Heights back to Chicago in their quest for a new football stadium, we cautioned it was too early to count the suburbs out.

Sure enough, on Monday, Arlington Heights officials unveiled a proposed settlement to the long-running property tax dispute between the team and three area school districts.

The plan was shared with officials from the Bears and school districts in late February. In addition, Village Manager Randy Recklaus requested a meeting with Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren, District 214 Superintendent Scott Rowe, District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small and District 15 Superintendent Laurie Heinz to talk about the proposed tax settlement.

The Bears response came Tuesday: “Our focus is on the City of Chicago project at this time.”

Hmmm. So, maybe the proposal — at least in the short run — won’t bring the spotlight back to the 326-acre former Arlington Park site that the Bears bought last year for $197.2 million. But it shows that Arlington Heights is playing the long game.

And, make no mistake, game play is crucial here.

But if negotiations at times seem like a chess match, they also have a bit of soap opera flair as well. The dashing Bears pledge their hearts to Arlington Heights, flirting with Naperville and other towns to stir a bit more drama and suspense, but all along, viewers wonder: Is the team’s future with its sprawling new property — or will the tug of tradition, the flash of the big city and the sweeping vistas of the lakefront lure them back to first love Chicago?

Stay tuned, we said last week. Indeed, like a juicy soap plot — or a tense chess match — anything can happen. Eventually, though, the Bears will have to commit, and dreams will be dashed.

Arlington Heights’ most recent offer reflects a desire to fight for a domed stadium and larger development on land that could one day host the Super Bowl that has long eluded Chicago.

The Bears must know that years of hassles lie ahead whatever site they ultimately select. As we previously pointed out, if they do indeed pony up $2 billion to build a new stadium on the parking lot of the current one, the battles they’ll face with Chicago’s Friends of the Parks alone, who helped squash plans for a Star Wars museum, will make the school districts’ tax asks seem like child’s play.

So, here we are, bracing for the next cliffhanger.

Recklaus stressed Monday that Bears representatives say their interest in the Arlington Park property “has not changed.” Their statement Tuesday sends a different message. But the final script for “The Bears and The ’Burbs” has yet to be written.

Two plot points remain clear, however: Arlington Heights is not giving up without a fight. And far more drama awaits.

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