Why a Rockford state rep wants the Bears to move to Arlington Heights
As the Chicago Bears get more serious about building a new stadium at Arlington Park, the potential city-to-suburban move has found an unexpected ally in the Illinois legislature -- from someone who lives in neither the city nor the suburbs.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Rockford Republican, has filed two resolutions that urge the NFL franchise to move to Arlington Heights for the economic development and transportation access benefits it could provide.
At the same time, Sosnowski's resolutions say the relocation should happen without the team requesting incentives from local or state government.
A hearing on one of the bills is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the House Cities and Villages Committee.
Though House resolutions don't have much teeth, they can at least create conversation or grab attention. If approved by legislators, the resolutions call for suitable copies to be delivered to the Bears organization, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes.
The legislation contrasts with a bill proposed by a Democratic state senator -- whose Chicago district includes Soldier Field -- just weeks after the Bears announced a deal last fall to buy the Arlington Park property. State Sen. Robert Peters' Monsters of the Midway Act would prevent the team from leaving the publicly owned lakefront stadium without an agreement with the city.
Other lawmakers from Chicago have urged the Bears to stay put, while many in the Northwest suburbs have publicly declared their support for the team's move to their backyards.
So, what's got a Rockford lawmaker stumping for Arlington Heights?
"I just look at this holistically from a state perspective," said Sosnowski, a self-described Bears fan who has gone to games at Soldier Field. "The current stadium is too small to host things like a Super Bowl. There's limitations with parking and access. And when you look at that facility versus others, a facility in Arlington Heights -- with the land surrounding it -- has the potential for a state-of-the-art stadium."
Sosnowski acknowledged feelings among his colleagues about whether the team should stay or go may differ based on geography, but he thinks the majority would be supportive of something that makes the most sense economically.
"I think what we've seen from newer stadiums and the economic development potential of both team-owned property and ancillary property -- that can spur future growth and development and jobs if done appropriately and without taxpayers' money," he said.
No matter their opinion on the potential Bears relocation, a number of state leaders from both parties have agreed they have no appetite for state financing for a suburban stadium.
That includes Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said after the Bears land purchase was announced last September that he thought the team should stay in Chicago, and that public money to keep them there or move them to Arlington is "not something that we're looking at."
The $197.2 million deal between the Bears and racetrack owner Churchill Downs Inc. isn't expected to close until the first half of 2023.
Team officials confirmed earlier this month that as part of their due diligence process for the 326-acre site, they've retained an architect and other consultants to help put together preliminary redevelopment plans.