Tax and business boost, traffic: Arlington Park neighbors ponder possible Chicago Bears relocation
If the Chicago Bears move from Soldier Field to Arlington Park, Rocco Fridono, owner of Big Ange's Eatery in Arlington Heights, will have to make some changes -- starting with the hours and days of operation.
Currently, Big Ange's Eatery, a cozy, family-owned barbecue, burger and sandwich spot at Northwest Highway and Euclid Avenue, is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The racetrack clientele Fridono expected when he and his parents opened the restaurant five years ago never materialized. But things might be different with Bears fans.
If professional football someday comes to town, Fridono said, he'll be open Sundays.
"I'd be over the moon," he said.
It would be many years, if ever, before kickoff at a new Bears stadium on the site of the 326-acre racetrack. But a day after the team acknowledged making a bid -- one of several received by Churchill Downs -- to purchase the property, nearby residents and business owners already were thinking about the possibilities.
Emotions were mixed about the Bears moving to the Northwest suburbs. Some people said they think a stadium and other developments built on the site could generate more revenue for community improvements; others worry about how neighbors would be affected by traffic congestion, noise and crowds.
Arlington Heights resident Gary Parciak has an idea for how to accommodate the latter.
Waiting in line for lunch Friday at Big Ange's with his 8-year-old daughter, Eleanor, Parciak said he and his neighbors joked about renting their houses on Airbnb during football weekends.
The prospect of a professional team playing blocks from his house is exciting, he said, but the longtime horse racing fan is sorry to see the track go.
"We love it there," he said.
And while the tax revenue could benefit the community, Parciak has concerns about a stadium complex's impact on traffic.
"What would it be like to go to a grocery store on Sunday?" he wondered.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes acknowledges residents' concerns.
"In the last 24 hours or so, I've gotten very positive reactions to the possibility (of the Bears coming to Arlington Heights), but there's been a couple who just aren't thrilled about the possibility," he said. "I certainly understand that not 100% of the residents are going to be in favor of it. We want to do what's best for the community, and we'll certainly keep pursuing that goal."
Hayes said he understands the balance between the economic value of a particular redevelopment proposal, policy or program, and residents' quality of life.
"It's something we need to look at, and it's a long row to hoe," he said of a Bears stadium proposal. "Certainly, we'd like to maximize the revenue potential, but we're not going to do anything that's going to impact the quality of life."
Tim Hirz, a Mount Prospect resident who was visiting his grandchildren on Fremont Street across Euclid Avenue from the track, said he doesn't think the area is large enough to handle a 70,000-seat stadium.
"I'm not a fan of having the Bears come out here," Hirz said Friday afternoon. "What are we going to call them? The Arlington Bears?"
A lifelong resident of Rolling Meadows whose Sigwalt Street house is south of the racetrack, Cindy Hughes never imagined the Bears playing in the suburbs was a possibility.
"It doesn't sound like a bad idea, but I don't know what it would do to property values," she said.
• Daily Herald reporter Christopher Placek contributed to this report