Pro-Bears coalition forms in Arlington Heights to 'hear from the horse's mouth,' make move happen
Faced with mounting questions and concerns from her clients looking to buy or sell around the Bears' potential new suburban home, Arlington Heights real estate agent Holly Connors decided to pick up the phone and call Halas Hall.
That first phone call has led to weekly meetings the last few weeks with the NFL club's executives -- including a recent in-person get-together at the Golden Brunch diner on Golf Road -- and formation of a group of area leaders supporting the team's move to town.
The organization, Touchdown Arlington, is billed as a grass-roots coalition of local business owners and residents who want to work with the Bears, elected officials and community members to make the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" a reality.
Connors and five others on the steering committee cite the potential regional economic benefits, job creation and millions in future tax revenues for the village and schools. The group formally launched its website, touchdownarlington.com, and Facebook page late last week.
Organizers now are planning their first event: a community meeting with top Bears executives, including new club President Kevin Warren, that could happen as soon as May at the Metropolis Ballroom in downtown Arlington Heights.
"I reached out to the Bears because I wanted to understand their position. I wanted to understand where they're coming from," said Connors, owner of the Arlington Heights-based GetBurbed real estate team and a broker at @properties Christies International Real Estate. "I'm seeing a lot on social media that's negative, and I felt it was important to hear from the horse's mouth."
Bears officials confirmed they've been talking to Connors' group and plan to attend the group's community meeting.
"We welcome and appreciate the support of local residents and business owners who share our vision of building a stadium and entertainment district at Arlington Park, and realize the many benefits this development could bring to the region," the club said in a statement released Friday. "We are committed to continuing the exploration of this opportunity and engaging with the many stakeholders who have an important voice in this process."
Connors said most people she knows favor the team's move to town, but they do share concerns about noise, crime and traffic.
Some question how the Bears' relocation would affect their pocketbooks. Others have suggested, she said, "the McCaskeys don't want to pay taxes."
That's likely an allusion to the team's effort in Springfield to secure a massive tax break for the 326-acre Arlington Park property. The Payments in Lieu of Taxes proposal would freeze the assessment on the site and allow the Bears to make negotiated payments to local taxing bodies such as schools.
"They, of course, are going to pay taxes like everyone else. Of course they are," Connors said. "We just have to do it in a fair and reasonable way."
The coalition, at its meeting with Warren and other leaders, can help "bridge the gap of communication the Bears are struggling with," she said.
The invitation-only meeting -- by signing up on the website -- would be for business owners, civic organization leaders, residents, season ticket holders, the press and those in favor of the Bears move, Connors said.
Others on the steering committee include Golden Brunch owner Argie Karafotias, developer Drew Bulson of Ketone Partners, attorney Ernest Rose of Drost Kivlahan McMahon & O'Connor, real estate agent and Gerry's Café co-founder Amy Philpott, and Lollipop Balloon Co. owner Michelle Gambro.