chicago – Backers of a new plan to subsidize the Chicago Bears’ proposed Arlington Heights stadium are drafting a game so far short of quarterbacks in Springfield.
In fact, most of its supporters are still crowded.
No legislation has yet been tabled and no sponsor has been named for the measure that would create a new type of tax incentive known as PILOT. This stands for remittance of taxes.
That would allow the Bears to pay Arlington Heights an agreed-upon amount for property taxes on the 326-acre site at the old Arlington International Racetrack. That amount would likely be less than what a team would be liable for if it pursued its stadium and other structures that would increase the property’s value.
“As we have stated publicly, property tax certainty is necessary for the Arlington Park project to move forward. We will continue to conduct due diligence on how to achieve this goal,” the Bears said in a statement.
In a summary of the proposal, the team said 35 other states have similar tax incentives to attract major development, putting Illinois at a disadvantage. Bears’ proposal would apply the PILOT incentive only to projects with a capital investment of more than $500 million. The stadium in Arlington Heights alone is estimated to cost at least $2.5 billion.
A key question in Bears’ proposal is whether schools in the Arlington Heights area will be involved in any payment negotiations. Any development that adds families to the area will increase enrollment – and further increase funding needs, which are now largely provided through property taxes.
Municipalities and private developers can mutually terminate incentives at any time, but the developer must agree to live in the property for at least 20 years, a draft of the legislation says.
The Bears have hired consultants, one of the state’s leading business groups and the Road Builders Association to push through the legislation.
The idea was floated weeks ago in Springfield, including at a meeting with senior Democratic staff, including at least one representative from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. But the plan met with initial backlash, a source with knowledge of the meeting told The Sun-Times.
But now, proponents of the incentive, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, are fighting to win support — arguing that without state support for the Bears, the team might pack up and leave.
“I think that needs to happen by the end of this session. If it doesn’t, you’re going to start having other states come up with their case for why the Chicago Bears should be the St. Louis Bears,” said commissioner Todd Maisch. Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “That’s the reality of the world. People may not like it, but everyone wants the Chicago Bears to remain the Chicago Bears. It might get a little messy. But I think we’ll hit a positive balance.
Maisch also pushed back against the notion that this was a “Bears bailout,” which many see as a subsidy to a franchise that will earn $520 million in 2021, according to Forbes.
“I disagree with the idea that this is a bailout. There is competition among states and industries. Let’s recognize that there is competition for investment across the country, whether it’s light industry, transportation or sports teams,” Maisch said.
In September, the Bears laid the groundwork to seek some form of public subsidy for the massive mixed-use stadium development they are exploring in Arlington Heights. The team said it would not seek public funding for stadium construction, but would seek “additional funding and assistance” for a broader mixed-use development, which it described as one of the largest in Illinois history.
Pritzker has said he does not support public financing of the stadium.
In the closing days of the lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly, lawmakers passed the Illinois Investment Bill, which included the following language: “(The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) shall not provide financial incentives to professional sports Operations from one location in the state to another location in the state.”
This refers to discretionary funds used to settle fees. The bill has yet to come to the governor’s desk.
State Rep. Mark Walker said he has reviewed the latest proposal and asked many questions, including from the Board of Appeals and Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, about how large the scale would be. What do you think about the assessment freeze for 20 years.
“I wouldn’t call it a subsidy. It’s actually less tax. I think the program is interesting. I think it’s new. We don’t do it in the state.
“The difficulty I’m having is that it requires municipalities to negotiate on behalf of school districts, and I’m not so sure that school districts shouldn’t have more power over the taxes that should go to them that they do that in this plan, said Walker. “I’m not sure yet. That’s a shortcoming.”
Walker also called it “an interesting proposal from the state government to move companies here,” but not necessarily for companies that just want to relocate to other parts of the state.
Walker said he was not asked to sponsor the bill.
“I could be considered a sponsor. Would I choose a sponsor is a whole different question. I think it’s outdated. They’re trying to see who’s the best.”
State Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, told The Sun-Times that the proposal deserves “scrutiny” before being considered. Canty is also a member of the Arlington Park Village Council.
“Like any taxpayer commitment, the proposed subsidy program for the new Chicago Bears stadium deserves scrutiny before we decide whether to proceed,” Canty said in an email to The Sun-Times.
“While I am excited by the prospect of bringing new economic development opportunities to our communities, we must clearly assess the potential return on our spending and whether the state is suitable for participating in this project.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2023.)