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Bears Make Surprise Move, Open Stadium Talks With Naperville

  • The team’s surprise move to open talks with Naperville arrives amid a new dispute over the tax assessment on the Arlington Heights Racecourse property.
  • The Arlington Heights plan originally carried a projected cost of $5 billion.
Chicago Bears want public money to move
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears’ seemingly inevitable move from Soldier Field to Arlington Heights has taken a massive turn, as the NFL team has entered separate talks with another suburban Illinois locale.

Scott Hagel, the team’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, claimed that long-running efforts to build a $2.2 billion domed stadium in Arlington Heights — including a large land deal and the start of racetrack demolition — are now “at risk.” Hagel’s comments arrived as senior Bears executives met on Friday with Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli.

“We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus,” team officials wrote. “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.”

The team’s surprise move to open talks with Naperville arrives amid a new dispute over the tax assessment on the Arlington Heights Racecourse property the Bears purchased from Churchill Downs for $197.2 million. The still-pending issue could dramatically alter the economics of the proposed stadium and mixed-use development project.

The Arlington Heights plan originally carried a projected cost of $5 billion, including both the stadium and adjacent development. More dramatically, its domed stadium, if completed, would put Chicago in the mix for major events such as the Super Bowl and Final Four, which aren’t possible at Soldier Field.

Arlington Heights said it isn’t surprised by the Bears’ move and that village officials “always expected that the club would explore any and all viable locations.”

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