When the Chicago Bears put in their bid of $197.2 million for the Arlington Park racecourse property, it was the biggest indication in years that they were determined to leave Soldier Field. The organization had grown tired of the constant battling with the Chicago Park District over renovations to the stadium, now one of the most outdated in the NFL.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 attempted to install a sportsbook to accommodate legalized gambling. Two weeks later, the bid was placed.
Now it appears the organization is mere months away from closing the deal, giving them control of a property that spreads across 326 acres. That is more than enough to construct a new stadium. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other Chicago politicians’ attempts to convince and/or intimidate them into reconsidering has failed. That doesn’t mean they’re entirely toothless, though. According to several sources, one problem continues to stare down the McCaskey family.
As rich as they are, they aren’t exceedingly wealthy compared to other owners in the NFL. Stadiums are expensive. Recent ones have cost anywhere from $2-5 billion. Most owners aren’t capable of paying for that entirely on their own. They need help from the state through public funding. A lot of it, according to a recent study.
“Reviewing the financing for the 21 new NFL stadiums since 1998, the Buffalo News found public financing commonly was 60% or more. It was 100% in Tampa, Florida.”
Chicago Bears may have trouble getting what they need.
It’s been made clear already by several government officials that the Bears shouldn’t expect any financial support from the state. That is a problem. Reports say the team has brought in architects who helped build the brand new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. That cost $1.9 billion to build. If that holds true for the Bears’ new building, 60% comes to $1.14 billion. No wonder the state is already saying they won’t do it.
That is where the city comes back into play. If they have one ace 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 factors in her favor for keeping the Bears. As you read details of stadium subsidies, you get repeated references to bond issues and taxes on retail sales, hotel stays and car rentals, all ready-made Chicago revenue sources Arlington Heights cannot match. The city has better odds of drafting a package for the Bears that doesn’t require state money.”
This comes down to how many investors the Chicago Bears can find willing to help with the property in Arlington Heights. They’ll have to construct it in a way that is great for fans and generating revenue. If they struggle to do this, it might bring them back to the bargaining table with the city. The odds don’t favor it. There should be no shortage of business entities eager to partner with a top NFL franchise with one of the largest fanbases in football.
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