What Arlington trustee candidates think should replace Arlington Park

  • Upper from left, Richard Baldino, William Beiersdorf, James "Jim" Bertucci and lower from left, Wendy Dunnington, Nicolle Grasse, Jim Tinaglia are candidates for Arlington Heights trustee in the 2021 election.

    Upper from left, Richard Baldino, William Beiersdorf, James "Jim" Bertucci and lower from left, Wendy Dunnington, Nicolle Grasse, Jim Tinaglia are candidates for Arlington Heights trustee in the 2021 election.

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 3/1/2021 10:36 AM

With the venerable Arlington Park now up for sale, the Daily Herald asked candidates for the village board what should be done in redeveloping the prime property.

Candidates are incumbents Rich Baldino and Jim Tinaglia and challengers Will Beiersdorf, Jim Bertucci, Will Beiersdorf, Wendy Dunnington and Nicolle Grasse. Four seats are up in the April 6 election.

 

Here's what they had to say.

Q: Given the upcoming sale of the racetrack, what kind of development should the village encourage as a replacement?

Baldino: I am, of course, incredibly sad to see Arlington Park closing and the loss of such a valued business partner for the Village. Having said that, we should focus efforts on development that diversifies the business base in Arlington Heights and aligns with our sustainability goals. This would likely be a mixed-use development which I would be interested to see how that takes shape including compliance with the new affordable housing ordinance. I am open minded and interesting ideas are being floated such as a music venue or sporting complex. I am excited to see the possibilities for the future of the Village.

Beiersdorf: First, I want to thank Mr. Duchossois, his family, and all of those folks from Arlington Park Racetrack for the many years of support, partnership, friendship, and collaboration with Arlington Heights and our neighboring communities. We are thankful for all events, and initiatives that the Arlington Park has done for all of us (4th of July Fireworks Shows, and many others). Thank you!

Now, while it's unfortunate that Arlington Park Racetrack will be closing, it is essential that as we move forward with potential replacement opportunities, that all options should be considered with a focus on what is in the best interest for the long-term growth and success for Arlington Heights residents and taxpayers, our neighboring, as well as regional villages and communities. I believe it is critical that whatever is decided upon, that we ensure that it's a win-win for all that will be affected by the future of Arlington Park Racetrack. I would anticipate that any replacement project will take several years, or longer, which should give us ample time to assess all potential projects in a thoughtful and purpose driven manner.

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Bertucci: Initially, and at this time, I'd like to go on record as suggesting the Village keep an open mind. Yes, let's think big. This is a great opportunity for another entertainment or sport type venue. And, we should encourage proposals like that to be brought forward. However, will we see those types of proposals in reality? While many bring up the Bears, let's look at the reality of some facts. The Bears are in a lease with the Chicago Park District until 2033 at a cost of $6.3 million per year. I'm not seeing the Bears buy out that lease ... and I don't think the Chicago Park District would let them out of the lease. Long odds that the Cubs would leave Wrigley Field and even longer odds that the White Sox would leave the south side for the northwest side. Still, this is indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity. A Ravinia type venue ... yes, lets see the proposal. The Arlington Park property is a large piece of land at over 300 acres and has its own train station and access to major roads and expressways. In the past it brought in real estate taxes, sales tax and entertainment tax. What is done there must enhance, not detract, from the downtown, the north districts and the south districts. All this must be factored in. We'll probably see many ideas and proposals brought forward. Including entertainment type venues and mixed use. Let's imagine a blank canvas and encourage the developers and real estate professionals to bring forth ideas for the Village board and residents to consider with an open mind.

Dunnington: I would love to see a Ravinia style music venue at the racetrack property. I believe an outdoor theater offers something new and exciting and doesn't detract from our downtown businesses. A bike and walking path along Northwest Highway from downtown to the racetrack property could help tie the two areas together. With 326 acres available, and a Metra train stop, there is a lot of opportunity for development along with the outdoor theater. In general the property needs to generate sales tax revenue and property tax revenue to replace the loss of the racetrack. I worked as a credit analyst in commercial banking where I analyzed a company's financial statements and business plans when they were applying for a loan. I also managed the $26 million budget of the Direct Marketing department of the Alzheimer's Association as a financial analyst. My experience in finance will be an important asset for the Village Board as we decide the future of the site.

Grasse: I believe any and all development ideas that are unique, creative, and that foster a true destination place would be ideal. I believe all proposals should be considered. Maintaining a community attraction/destination place combined with a continued revenue base would allow Arlington Heights to offer what no other area communities offer, and would continue to provide the Village with the revenue to keep the property tax levy maintained or even lowered. With the size of the property, easy access from the expressways and its very own Metra stop, the possibilities for this site are many. Additional modes of public transportation to and from all parts of the Village could also be introduced. From indoor and outdoor music/entertainment venues to sporting events to gardens, natural ponds, a small lake, walking/biking paths, ice skating loop and indoor/outdoor french markets, I can imagine many different kinds of destination events all located throughout this area that could be available year round to our citizens and visitors. Public and community art could be an important presence throughout this site. Use of green initiatives and clean renewable energy could make this a model for future types of community activity and destination sites throughout the area. While the sale of the racetrack is a loss of an important part of our Village identity and needed revenue source, the possibilities for new, creative and even better options and revenue at this site are exciting for our future. A statue or memorial at this site to recognize the importance of horse racing for our Village history could be a future option to consider as well.

Tinaglia: The announcement regarding the closing of Arlington Park is disappointing, but for many of us, not surprising. Arlington Park has been an enormous part of our community for decades, and the loss will be felt in many ways ... not the least of which financial. As a Village Trustee, it will be my goal to focus new development plans that provide equal or better tax revenue, allowing us to protect property tax levels for our residents. A traditional mixed use development with retail and multi family structures is not the best use for this highly accessible 326 acre site. We must hold to a vision that maintains the legacy of the land as a destination for entertainment that is year round and multifaceted. My wish is to attract a professional sports team so that an enclosed dome can be built and used year round. Along with that, I want to see large scale concerts and smaller events that fill the facility on a regular basis. With a Metra stop and major expressways nearby it is a unique opportunity that comes along once in a generation. As an architect that often works with developers, I stand uniquely positioned to help guide this transformation and make sure it is properly focused so that the next legacy for Arlington Heights can be as wonderful as the track has been before. I can't think of anything more critical, yet potentially impactful for our community, and this must be handled carefully. I stand ready and hopeful to represent all of Arlington Heights for the best possible future of Arlington Park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Q: Would you be open to considering tax incentives for the right project?

Baldino: Yes, the right projects should be supported in multiple ways. It must make sense for the whole of the Village, not investing beyond our means. We also need to ensure equity for residents and employees at the future business or housing that is developed.

Beiersdorf: Yes, I believe all potential incentives should be on the table, and while those decisions are made, we need to keep in mind how that will affect the financial health of Arlington Heights, as well as other taxing bodies and organizations.

Bertucci: For the right project is the key phrase. What would be the cost and/or lost revenue? When is break-even? What would the expected long-term payoff be? This is where my financial planning and budgeting experience makes me ask questions in order to diagnose before I answer and prescribe.

Dunnington: Yes.

Grasse: Yes, tax incentives with little or no risk to the Village should be an option to consider for the right project. There could be big opportunities for federal funding and corporate donations for the use of green initiatives and clean renewable energy as well. All options should be considered for the right project.

Tinaglia: The professional sports dome project that I am expecting, will take the right team of developers with huge financial backing. It will require an entire crew of open minded thinkers to pull everything together. The costs will be bigger than anything we've seen in the past, and the rewards will be equally great. I hope to be reelected as the open minded and level headed trustee that makes things happen. Everything is on the table so long as in the end, our residents can benefit from the huge tax creation from the project. Our residents deserve a huge win and with my idea, everybody wins.

Q: Would you be agreeable to a sports facility on the site?

Baldino: A sports facility is one of many ideas that I am open to, and I'll consider all viable alternatives to make Arlington Park a sustainable property for future generations.

Beiersdorf: I believe all options should be on the table, with a focus on what would be best for the long-term growth and success of Arlington Heights residents, taxpayers and our neighbors. Regardless of how the Arlington Park Racetrack shall be repurposed, there are a multitude of considerations, from potential revenue opportunities, environmental concerns and impacts, how it will impact our neighbors and other taxing bodies, and I am sure many other items. The focus should be to find that project and repurposing of Arlington Park Racetrack that best supports the needs of all our communities.

Bertucci: See my answer to question #1.

Dunnington: Yes. I am a hockey mom and a soccer mom and spend hours of my free time in sports facilities. Many different types of sport teams spend their weekends traveling to tournaments and are looking for great athletic venues with convenient hotels, banquet rooms and fun team activities that they can participate in in-between games. This property could provide all of that to sports teams.

Grasse: Yes. I would be agreeable to any and all development ideas including sports facilities that are a destination place and are revenue producing for our community.

Tinaglia: My wish is to attract a professional sports team so that an enclosed dome can be built and used year round.

Q: In reviewing new development ideas, how much weight should the village give to the interests of school districts 15 and 214 and the neighboring city of Rolling Meadows?

Baldino: If the property becomes a multiuse development, we will need to partner with school districts to ensure that school capacity and planning is adequate for the projected residents. We would also need to consider residential areas to both the north and south (Rolling Meadows and Palatine), depending on the type of development. Traffic flow is always a consideration.

Bertucci: For the right project is the key phrase. What would be the cost and/or lost revenue? When is break-even? What would the expected long-term payoff be? This is where my financial planning and budgeting experience makes me ask questions in order to diagnose before I answer and prescribe.

Beiersdorf: As any decisions are made, the village of Arlington Heights needs to take due care and focus on balancing the needs of all taxing bodies that will be affected by the future replacement of Arlington Park Racetrack. As Arlington Heights is a village of good neighbors, we need to ensure that we collaborate and align all interests in a fair and thoughtful manner, creating a win-win scenario for all.

Bertucci: While I assume the decision on the use of the property will chiefly be made by our Village Board, there are many stakeholders who will wish to influence it -- including, as the question suggests, Rolling Meadows and the school districts. To facilitate the important process of the Board's gathering input from stakeholders, perhaps an advisory council could be formed, including representatives from surrounding communities, school districts, businesses, homeowners associations, public services, etc. Of course, any of these stakeholders could meet individually with the Village Board, but useful discussion among the stakeholders regarding the array of interests may be better considered in a group format.

Dunnington: It's important to meet with representatives from Rolling Meadows, Palatine and Schaumburg to discuss what is missing and is needed in the Northwest Suburbs. Of course, everyone wants to keep property taxes low and since 67% of our property tax bill supports local schools, it will be important to replace the property tax income of the racetrack property. Finally, the knowledge of the Park District and local environmental groups like the NW Sierra Club should also be considered with regards to the Salt Creek recreational trail and Twin Lakes in Palatine that closely border the property.

Grasse: As with all new revenue producing developments and projects, increased revenue also benefits our schools, park district, library and other government taxing districts. Along with providing entertainment opportunities, ensuring this new site continues to replace or increase the past revenue for our Village is a top priority. Collaboration and conversations with our other government services, residents, businesses and our neighboring city Rolling Meadows would benefit us all in the planning for a new site.

Tinaglia: Regarding the adjacent stakeholders, Rolling Meadows and school district 15/214, I see huge wins for everyone. A professional sports dome will bring revenue to all local interests without burdening the school districts. It will create job opportunities and sales tax for all the local communities and towns, including Rolling Meadows, Palatine and of course Arlington Heights. Bring on the Bears, bring on the White Sox, or bring on new competitive teams for generations to cheer for and enjoy. Let's not forget about the concerts and trade show events!

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