Lawmakers from Northwest suburbs love idea of Bears move, but state funding for it? Not so much
State lawmakers whose districts include or would be near the potential new Bears stadium in Arlington Heights said they believe the project would benefit the suburbs, but they were hesitant to say whether the state should help fund the venture.
State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican whose district includes Arlington Park, said he joined with local leaders and residents who are happy that the Bears signed a purchase agreement for Arlington Park.
"Arlington Park Racetrack has been the favorite destination for a lot of people here, and the prospect of the Bears coming to the site would soften the blow of losing Arlington Park," Morrison said. "I think an amazing scenario would be one where the track could operate concurrently with a new Bears stadium."
Morrison said whether the state should help fund a project on the site remains to be seen, and he didn't want to speculate so early in the process.
State Sen. Ann Gillespie, an Arlington Heights Democrat whose district includes Arlington Park, said if the Bears were to build a stadium on the site it would certainly change Arlington Heights, but she added, "We are still a ways from knowing whether a stadium is going in or not."
Gillespie said she would have a hard time getting behind state funds for a future stadium project.
"There are so many other issues that we need to be addressing that would have a bigger impact on people's lives than a sports stadium," Gillespie said.
State Rep. Mark Walker, an Arlington Heights Democrat whose district is adjacent to Arlington Park, sees a Bears stadium in the suburbs as a tremendous economic opportunity that would help local businesses.
Walker said the project should be done mostly with private capital without the state's involvement, except perhaps for minor infrastructure improvements on the fringes.
"These stadium projects are very profitable for the developers, and we shouldn't give them extra money just because," Walker said. "I think it'll be a great project for the owners and a great space for the Bears, so I hope it works."
State Sen. Laura Murphy, a Des Plaines Democrat, said a Bears stadium would be great for her district, which includes parts of Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village and Schaumburg.
"We would hope there'd be a lot of ancillary benefits," Murphy said. "However I would caution anyone to not get their hopes up yet. There's an awful lot yet to occur before you could see a game in that stadium were one to be built."
Murphy said she'd be cautious about appropriating state dollars.
State Sen. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, said he thinks the economic impact of a Bears stadium in Arlington Heights would be felt throughout the area.
"It's good news for the Northwest suburbs and I'm proud to represent this area, and I will do anything I can do to help," said Crespo, whose district includes portions of Hoffman Estates, Streamwood, Schaumburg, Hanover Park, Bartlett and Elgin.
Crespo said he doesn't know if there's an appetite from taxpayers to help fund a stadium project. But he is concerned that if the team decides Chicago and Arlington Heights aren't viable options that officials will decide to leave the area.
"The worst thing that would happen would be that team leaving Illinois," Crespo said. "I'd hate to hear the term 'Madison, Wisconsin, Bears.'"