Jim O'Donnell: Palatine's Schwantz among those perplexed by slow forward progress of the Bears

FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK, the Bears are 20 months past the September morn when they were announced as the "winners" of the 326 acres that now house the ghosts of Arlington Park.

They're also eight months removed from the grand town hall meeting at Hersey High School late last summer that came perilously close to the dreaded Flop City.

Attendance that night was underwhelming. It was the first discernible sign that there is nothing close to a local groundswell over the team's potential landing in Arlington Heights.

Yet, so deep into potentially their biggest business venture ever, the plodding McMunchkins have not produced critical impact studies that would allow state, county and local governments to exercise appropriate oversight and judiciousness in new allowances and legislation.

It's as if an NFL outfit went into a season with no progressive game plans and wound up finishing 3-14.

As first reported by Chris Placek, Mayors Jim Schwantz of Palatine and Lara Sanoica of Rolling Meadows generated a letter to Springfield two weeks ago expressing their shared concern about the off-tracking snailing of the NFL franchise.

Sanoica, according to Placek, also said, "The Bears don't even know the full scope of the Bears development at this time."

ON WEDNESDAY, MAYOR SCHWANTZ - the former Bear, Super Bowl champ (Cowboys in SB 30) and longtime contributor to WBBM-AM (780) on game days - offered more cautionary perspective:

"We really need to see a comprehensive traffic study as well as infrastructure and impact studies completed," Schwantz told The Daily Herald. "The Bears have previously committed to undertaking these studies and we were assured we would be provided with these documents.

"Unfortunately," Schwantz added, "We thought from discussions with the Bears that this information would have been completed by late last year or early this year.

"Without this level of detail, it is impossible to start allocating revenues - and therefore assumed costs - onto other units of government. While I can appreciate our state officials wanting to be involved, to try and legislate things beyond the property tax certainty the Bears seek is very premature."

THAT REFERENCE TO PREMATURITY is a restrained forearm shiver toward state Reps. Bob Rita (D., Blue Island) and elbowy Marty Moylan (D., Des Plaines).

Rita is the chairman of the Illinois House's Executive Committee. He also has a long history of being at the front of many legislative parades attempting to produce more favorable business conditions for horse racing, casino and online gaming concerns.

In his capacity as chair of that Executive Committee, Rita was the recipient of the Schwantz-Sanoica letter.

Moylan, once a sharp business agent for the IBEW Local 134, has raced toward center stage as the Bears-AP marquee maneuvering weaves its odd path. He's the public fellow who has strained to make patch-and-punt analogies to "a rodeo" and "the goal line."

"Take a knee pard'ner" may not be in his offsides lexicon.

AS MAYOR OF DES PLAINES, Moylan was in charge when Neil Bluhm and associates successfully managed to acquire and move the state's tenth casino license to the extreme southern edge of the northwest suburb.

After Bluhm quarterbacked a transfer of majority ownership of the Des Plaines Rivers Casino to Churchill Downs Inc. in 2018, Arlington Park was suddenly yanked to the front line of Death Row Race Tracks.

The presence of Rivers has brought such benefits to Des Plaines as a taxing run of steady police and EMT calls to its locale and outer parking lots along with an endless succession of overpriced tribute bands at the Des Plaines Theatre, a venue restored in part by Rivers-generated funding.

Now that's cultural and civic enhancement at any goal-line rodeo.

LURKING IN THE BACKGROUND of much of this remains the dark specter of Bunker Bill Carstanjen and Churchill Downs Inc.

It doesn't take a James Patterson mind to craft a tale in which a calculating out-of-state corporation has to bulldoze a global landmark and stun common home folk to safeguard profits.

Patterson would have the masters of greed enlist a reasonably well-regarded local organization - one rife with pie-eyed pliability - to do its dirtiest deed.

For the sake of story arc, Patterson's poltroons would be handed the keys in time to be responsible for the demolition of the legacied icon. That'd leave far fewer fingerprints of the marauders from afar.

BUT AS SINCLAIR LEWIS WROTE, it can't happen here.


For further verification, just check out that funereal chain of demolition trucks lining the lanes out of Arlington Park these days.

Thank goodness they didn't have to wait on promised exit directions from George McCaskey, Kevin Warren and others in the Bears drain trust.

The ghosts of Arlington Park don't have that kind of time.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

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