Bears will not be enough on their own

To paraphrase Bogey (or Shakespeare, if you prefer), seeing the Chicago Bears playing football in Arlington Heights at a state-of-the-art stadium is what dreams are made of.

As we all know, Churchill Downs Inc. has agreed to sell the 326 acres of Arlington International Racecourse to the Bears for $ 197.2 million. The Bears are among the most popular and wealthiest franchises in the NFL. This is the kind of prestige “getting” that happens once every 100 years.

It would be easy to focus on the excitement of it all, and it’s very exciting. But before Arlington Heights and regional planners sign on the dotted line, they must ask themselves questions about the benefits and costs of setting up a suburban NFL stadium – questions about jobs, costs that the community will bear and whether the regional economy can offset these costs with benefits.

Even in these early days of speculation, it’s already pretty clear to us that bears will not be enough on their own.

Ideally, sports fans will come to a game, spend the night at a local hotel, and spend a day or evening in the suburbs – visiting Schaumburg, Rosemont, the Metropolis in Arlington Heights, the new Des Plaines Theater or one of the many other sites. We’re saying ideally, because it’s also very likely that most fans will live in the six-county metro area and will just go to the game and then go home afterwards.

So a Bears stadium in Arlington Heights should boost tourism across the region, but while tourists will always come to Chicago, whether the Bears play there or not, the suburbs don’t have the same appeal to locals. exterior, despite the wonderful shopping, dining and entertainment we have to offer.

No, the Bears, who would play a maximum of 10 games per season (including a few in the preseason), will not be enough on their own. Ten games a year does not create a multitude of high paying jobs, nor does it create businesses like hotels and restaurants that also employ people.

What our leaders need to see in their dreams is the big picture, and they need more in this development than just a stage. We need a facility that can be aggressively marketed in a number of ways, attracting enough ancillary activities in the summer and on rest days to create a good number of permanent jobs. More than that, the stadium should be sufficiently busy, as often as possible, so it creates a habit in people.

Prestige factor aside for a moment, 326 acres near the heart of Arlington Heights is an unprecedented development opportunity (Woodfield Mall, when it opened, was on 191 acres). Any development on the grounds of Arlington Park will ultimately be judged by what it brings to the community in terms of public benefits – in taxes, for example, or in local employment, or even as an expression of culture or of beauty.

A stadium should be judged in the same way, by measuring what it brings with what it costs.


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