Arlington Heights residents want the Bears — but they don’t want to foot the bill, poll finds

SNEED EXCLUSIVE: A new poll shows that more than two-thirds of voters in the northwest suburb say the Bears shouldn’t get a dime of taxpayer money if they decide to leave Soldier Field for Arlington Heights.

SHARE Arlington Heights residents want the Bears — but they don’t want to foot the bill, poll finds
Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights in September 2021.

Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights last September.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Go Bears!

Or whoa … maybe not?

Sneed has learned a new poll is set to be released Tuesday that could complicate potential plans by the Chicago Bears to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights.

The poll, commissioned by the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative political advocacy group, found Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly support a new Bears stadium — but strongly reject any taxpayer financing of the project.

“Our organization supports the Chicago Bears moving to Arlington Heights,” said Brian Costin, head of the Illinois chapter of the advocacy group, which promotes lower taxes and smaller government. 

“But we are against using taxpayer handouts or subsidies to lure business to the community,” he said. 

Arlington International Racecourse in September.

Arlington International Racecourse in September.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Conducted by the national firm ARW Strategies, the poll comes in the wake of a recent petition drive by the advocacy group proposing the village board pass an “Anti-Corporate Welfare Tax Ordinance,” aimed at preventing taxpayer-funded subsidies such as tax increment financing (TIF) proposals from being used to lure the Chicago-based Bears to the suburbs.

The UPshot: The poll shows 72% of polled Arlington Heights voters approved of the Chicago Bears plans to build a stadium in Arlington Heights, versus 18% who are opposed. 

The DOWNshot: The survey also showed 68% of voters disapproved of the project being supported by taxpayer dollars … compared to only 22% of the voters showing support. 

“Our polling shows Arlington Heights voters strongly believe they shouldn’t be forced to foot the bill as taxpayers,” added Costin, who tells Sneed the ARW survey was a phone poll of 300 voters living in the village — population 77,000 — with a margin of error of 5.6 percentage points. 

“I have a special reason for being a huge Bears fan,” said Costin. “My mother taught me to read by creating a book starring Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.”

The book, he recalled, included this line: “See Jim run. See Jim pass. See Jim score,” he chuckled.

Costin also emphasized that the poll showed opposition to using taxpayer money widening to 73% when voters “were informed the NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world and that it recently signed a $110 billion, 11-year multi-media deal last year.”

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes at Arlington International Racecourse.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes at Arlington International Racecourse.

Mark Welsh/Daily Herald file

Cue the flip side/headache: Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes told the media earlier this month he is opposed to the ordinance the American for Prosperity group is advocating for, which he believes is not in the village’s best interest. The mayor favors maintaining the village’s ability to offer financial incentives to the Chicago Bears and other entities wanting to locate there. 

But Costin said the poll found strong support for his proposed Anti-Corporate Welfare Tax Ordinance prohibiting the village of Arlington Heights from using taxpayer funds to help build a stadium, with 55% in favor, and 30% opposed.

And suburban pols might want to tread carefully on the matter, according to the poll.

The survey found just over 62% of voters said they would be less likely to vote for a mayoral or village board candidate who voted “to give taxpayer dollars to the Chicago Bears to help them pay for their new stadium at the expense of education, public services, and infrastructure funding.” A little less than 16% said such a vote would make them more likely to support such a candidate and 22% said it would make no difference.

“Soldier Field is a great example of a failed stadium deal supported by taxpayer subsidies. This poll sends a message to the village to end the continued flirtation with corporate welfare programs,” Costin said.

“Our objective is to make sure all businesses are treated equally before the law, and no one gets special treatment,” he said. “The continued flirtation with corporate welfare programs such as the creation of TIF districts, which raises everyone’s taxes when special corporations are given exclusive benefits, is untenable.”

Stay tuned for the next version of Da Bears pigskin play.

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