Property taxes at the heart of Chicago Bears new location uncertainty...

Property taxes at the heart of Chicago Bears new location uncertainty...

June 12, 2023 7

After apparently making a firm decision to move to a new location in Arlington Heights, the Chicago Bears move drama now enters another phase of uncertainty ... and property tax is at the heart of it. 

 The organization is complaining about the Cook County Assessor sale-hammering the Arlington Height's property's assessment, as reassessment immediately followed the purchase. The new tax-value the Assessor initially assigned the property was $197 million—exactly what the Bears paid for the property in September 2021.

"The 2022 assessment of the former Arlington Racecourse site is consistent with both the purchase price of the property and the price per square foot of other similarly sized land in the area," Scott Smith, a spokesman for the Cook County Assessor's Office said. "The facts speak for themselves." 

But the Bears disagree, saying the property is not viable and developed and therefore does not justify an assessment 500% that of three years prior. 

"The Chicago Bears goal of building the largest single development project in Illinois history led by billions of dollars in private capital investment, and the jobs and economic benefits generated, is at risk in Arlington Heights," a statement from the organization reads. "The stadium-based project remains broadly popular in Arlington Heights, Chicagoland and the state. However, the property’s original assessment at five times the 2021 tax value, and the recent settlement with Churchill Downs for 2022 being three times higher, fails to reflect the property is not operational and not commercially viable in its current state.  We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus.  It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the State of Illinois.”

So, who is correct?

It "bears" mentioning during their initial purchase, the team said they would not request for public dollars to help in the "multi-billion-dollar" project, EXCEPT for some property tax relief and support infrastructure.

“If we construct a state-of-the-art stadium, we will not seek taxpayer funds locally or otherwise for the structure,” the Bears wrote at the time. “If we proceed, however, this project would require assistance to ensure feasibility, including our securing property tax certainty and support for infrastructure commensurate with the public benefits the project will yield to the region.”

One presumes, then, there must have been assurances if not positive discussions between the County and the organization regarding the tax matter before the purchase. In the light of this, it does not then appear a bit brash and unapologetic, if not treacherous, for the Assessor's Office to take its present stance?

Regardless, the upshot at the moment is the Cook County Board of Review DID provide the Bears some relief, reducing the proposed assessment down to $95 million in response to an appeal filed by the organization. But, the reduction is a one-year reduction, meaning the assessment is liable to go up again in tax year 2023. 

An interior demolition of the former Arlington Park racetrack has begun with exterior to follow (permits pulled) but the organization goes so far as to say the new assessment puts the plan at risk. 

Meanwhile, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes called the development "not unexpected" and attempted to continue to woo the Bears while not getting in the middle of their decision making process. Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli also continues to advocate for the location to Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren.