Having our youth baseball season open with a few trips to Pioneer Park in Arlington Heights offered ample opportunity to view the dormant horse racing compound from vantage points along Illinois 53, U.S. 14 and Wilke Road.
Saturday’s chat with a colleague who loves the Chicago Bears despite living near Salt Lake City was a chance to say the next time he flies east for a game – his last was the 2019 opening letdown against Green Bay – it might be much easier for us to meet for a meal.
Whether the Lake Forest team’s plan to relocate its home games from Chicago’s lakefront comes to fruition seems trending away from impossible toward inevitable, but that may be less honest assessment and more pessimism about the way these things tend to go, fueled by recent football discussion in Nashville and baseball drama pitting Oakland against Las Vegas.
As encouraging as it’s been to read headlines such as a recent Crain’s Chicago Business piece titled “Bears’ stadium-subsidy plans going nowhere in Springfield,” around the corner is something like Thursday’s Capitol Fax post: “New Bears bill drops, would reimburse Chicago $150 million, set up infrastructure fund.”
That proposal, House Bill 4040, already has 13 cosponsors and, according to an analysis posted online “maintains the foundation of the mega project/PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) concept that was proposed in HB 3565.”
The new idea does seem to improve on the original by erecting more safeguards and oversight, and what appears to be a focus on channeling any public money toward the public aspects of redeveloping 326 acres: highways, railroad infrastructure, environmental impact and long-term property tax implications.
Yet the big picture questions remain: One, absent a stadium intended to further enrich the private owners of an NFL team worth $5 billion, what of these public projects would be necessary? Two, what is the statewide opportunity cost of focusing development efforts on such a narrow geographic area?
Or, to get back to my trips along Arlington Heights’ surface streets for an altogether different spectator sports experience, what necessary public projects in the affected region are put on hold while the Bears try to see how much help they can get to limit private investment? And how much worse will things get in the city as a result of uncertainty?
My Utah pal doesn’t get to Illinois often. These questions and many more may well be answered by the next time he sings “Bear Down” in person. In the interim, my sympathies to the entities trapped in an indefinite holding pattern, especially those who don’t care where the stadium goes but just want some sort of sign about whether it’s safe to make any plans whatsoever.