A proposed order could potentially throw a wrench in the Chicago Bears’ plans to potentially build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, with the bill aimed to prevent the use of taxpayer-funded subsidies to lure the team to the suburbs.
The ordinance, written by the right-wing political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity founded by the Koch brothers, would prevent Arlington Heights from using tax money as an incentive to attract businesses to the community, and that would potentially include the Bears.
The group started a petition last month in support of the ordinance, drawing mixed reactions from Bears fans in the suburbs.
“They’re going to make a lot of money being there, so I mean they should come here,” Deborah Rathberger said. “We shouldn’t fund it.”
“If they’re really going to be an economic benefit to the northwest suburbs and Arlington Heights, they shouldn’t need taxpayer subsidies,” added Brian Costin, associate director of the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Costin says the group’s goal is to address concerns about what he calls “corporate welfare.”
“We have nothing against the Chicago Bears. I’ve been a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, but we’ve seen stadium deals fail before – Soldier Field is a big example of that,” he said. “The average NFL stadium gets over $200 million in corporate grants, but it’s the most profitable sports business in the world. They just signed a TV deal worth $110 billion. over 11 years, or $3.4 billion per team, so they have more than enough money to build a state-of-the-art stadium without a single penny of taxpayers’ money.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told NBC 5 in an email that “any discussion of financial incentives is premature at this time and released a statement discussing the proposal.
“Americans for Prosperity’s proposed order is intended to prevent the Village of Arlington Heights from engaging in financial inducements, to any business, for any reason,” he said. “This extreme proposal would cripple the village’s ability to engage in economic development throughout our community and would have prevented many successful redevelopment and development projects from being completed had it been in place in the past.
“This proposed ordinance would definitely place the Village at a competitive disadvantage relative to other cities in Chicagoland for all future economic development efforts,” he added.
It remains unclear if the proposal will get the signatures it needs to move forward. Costin says about 300 residents have signed so far, with 550 signatures needed to put the ordinance before the village council.
If the council were to reject the ordinance, organizers could then recirculate the petition, with the aim of bringing the measure directly to voters in the April 2023 municipal elections.