When the Chicago Bears submitted their $197.2 million bid for the Arlington Park Racetrack property, it was the biggest indication in years that they were determined to move on from Soldier Field. The organization was fed up with constant battles with the Chicago Park District over renovations to the stadium, now one of the most outdated in the NFL. They were basically ignored when they tried to set up a bookmaker to accommodate legalized gambling. Two weeks later, the bid was filed.
It now appears the organization is just months away from closing the deal, giving them control of a property that spans 326 acres. That’s more than enough to build a new stadium. Attempts by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other Chicago politicians to convince and/or intimidate them into reconsidering their position have failed. That doesn’t mean they’re completely toothless, though. According to multiple sources, a problem continues to plague the McCaskey family.
As wealthy as they are, they’re not extremely wealthy compared to other NFL owners. Stadiums are expensive. The most recent have cost between 2 and 5 billion dollars. Most owners are not able to pay for this entirely on their own. They need state support through public funding. A lot, according to a recent study.
“In examining funding for the 21 new NFL stadiums since 1998, the Buffalo News found that public funding was generally 60% or more. It was 100% in Tampa, Florida.
The Chicago Bears may struggle to get what they need.
It has already been made clear by several government officials that the Bears should not expect any financial support from the state. It is a problem. Reports say the team brought in architects who helped build the all-new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. It cost $1.9 billion to build. If true for the Bears’ new building, 60% comes down to $1.14 billion. No wonder the state is already saying it won’t.
This is where the city comes back into play. If they have one trump card up their sleeve, it’s an ability to mitigate the need for public money, as David Roeder pointed out in the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Mayor Lori Lightfoot, however, has the factors in her favor to keep the Bears. Reading the details of stadium subsidies, you get repeated references to bond issues and taxes on retail sales, hotel stays and car rentals, all Chicago’s ready-made revenue streams that ‘Arlington Heights can’t match. City has a better chance of drafting a forfeit for the Bears which does not require state money.”
It comes down to how many investors the Chicago Bears can find willing to help with property in Arlington Heights. They will have to build it in a way that is ideal for fans and generate revenue. If they have trouble doing that, it could bring them back to the negotiating table with the city. The odds do not favor it. There should be no shortage of business entities willing to partner with a premier NFL franchise with one of football’s biggest fan bases.
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