After meeting with Chicago and Naperville mayors, Bears president coming to Arlington Heights

New Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren's introductory tour of the city and suburbs continues when he comes to Arlington Heights for a community conversation June 26.

The invite-only event is being organized by Touchdown Arlington, a coalition of Arlington Heights business owners who support the Bears' move to town.

Warren's visit follows meetings in recent days with the mayors of Chicago and Naperville, and the NFL franchise's declaration that its proposed $5 billion Arlington Park redevelopment is "at risk" and no longer its "singular focus." The statement came amid tense negotiations over property tax assessments and payments for the 326-acre site the Bears purchased in February.

Members of the Touchdown Arlington steering committee, led by real estate agent Holly Connors, met with Warren May 15 at Halas Hall - a month after he took the helm in Lake Forest. But the intention was also to host a community meeting with Warren and other top Bears executives in Arlington Heights.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 26, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St. Tickets are free, but registration is required by June 25 at Theater capacity is about 300, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, organizers said.

According to the event description, Warren will discuss his experience with stadium development - he was a front office executive for the Minnesota Vikings when the team built an enclosed stadium in downtown Minneapolis - and what it will take to make Arlington Park the Bears' new home.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime proposal that will boost the region's economic engine, create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in future tax revenues for Arlington Heights and the region," the pro-Bears coalition said.

Warren has had a robust meeting schedule in recent days, including an icebreaker video call Wednesday with new Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, and a visit to Naperville city hall last Friday to meet new Mayor Scott Wehrli.

Those introductions were made as the NFL club's negotiations over property tax issues have stalled, while discussions over legislation that would give the Bears a massive long-term property tax break are set to go at least into the fall.

Within days of taking the job, Warren met April 18 at Kimball Hill Elementary School in Rolling Meadows with the superintendents of Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Township Elementary District 15.

In a follow-up letter, Warren called their settlement offer for $7.9 million in annual tax payments the next two years a "nonstarter." He countered with $4.3 million.

Amid news of the meeting in Naperville to discuss the possibility of building a stadium there, the Touchdown Arlington group put out a statement criticizing legislators and school board members for "political foot dragging."

"Losing this opportunity due to politics will be a devastating and unforgivable loss for our community, and we urge local officials to swiftly reignite negotiations to make this development a reality," the group said. "Every local and state elected official and business and civic leader should get in the huddle with the Bears."

In a joint statement of their own, the school districts said they are supportive of the team's potential move to Arlington Heights, and expressed confidence they could reach agreement on a "market-oriented" 2023 assessment that factors in the recent $197.2 million purchase and anticipated future development.

"As a private corporation, we understand that they need to do what is in the best interest of their business and their ownership, while we need to focus on what is in the best interests of our students and local taxpayers," the schools said.

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Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, January 2023
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