Listen to two suburban mayors: Bears’ Arlington Heights plan will sack taxpayers

If the stadium complex would be such a moneymaker, why don’t the Bears just pay for it, along with all associated costs?

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Horses in the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes pass the grandstand at Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights in 2017.

Horses in the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes pass the grandstand at Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights in 2017.

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Football coaches would never settle for a game-opening coin toss that says heads we win, tails you lose.

But the proposed Bears stadium in Arlington Heights — and the team’s ancillary multipurpose entertainment, commercial/retail and housing district — look increasingly like that’s what local taxpayers are in line for when the issue probably comes up again in the next legislative session.

This past week, the mayors of the nearby suburbs of Rolling Meadows and Palatine formally came out against the plan, saying it could stick area taxpayers with more than $1 billion, and that would be just for infrastructure improvements.

Editorial

Editorial

That’s a ton of money in an area where many residents already struggle to pay high taxes. And the need for improved infrastructure for a new stadium can’t be ignored. Longtime area residents remember how getting around town was complicated by endless lines of cars leaving the track after a day of horse racing, when racing’s popularity was still high.

If the stadium complex would be such a moneymaker, why don’t the Bears just pay for it, along with all associated costs? Instead they say, for example, they need “property tax certainty.” According to one proposal, that means freezing a property tax assessment for 40 years.

Well, who wouldn’t love to have that? And if “property tax certainty” means taxes won’t go up on the Bears — and if proposed other revenues won’t cover that — who do you think will make up the difference? We thought you’d guess.

The Arlington Heights site, longtime home to the Arlington Park International Racecourse, is an ideal opportunity for development. It is bordered by major highways and has its own Metra stop. Any Bears development should be compared with what revenues the site could bring in with other uses. If the Bears’ plan generates less, that’s a hidden cost as well.

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Over the years, the public has heard countless proposals in which taxpayers were assured this project or that program would pay for itself, and more. Only afterward do we learn it’s time to dip into public funds to meet unexpected expenses or to make up for revenue shortfalls.

When Chicago agreed to revamp Soldier Field for the Bears, who would have thought the team would walk out on a lease that doesn’t end until 2033? And if the history of stadium financing is prologue, the Bears will be back asking for more in future years, to fund this or that.

Palatine and Rolling Meadows have taken a close look at the Bears plan, and they don’t like what they see. Everyone else should pay attention.

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