Eye On Illinois: Bears’ stadium site doubt should frighten taxpayers

On Dec. 9, 2018, the Chicago Bears defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 15-6, running their record to 9-4 and setting the stage for a vital showdown with the Green Bay Packers.

The victory over the Rams also featured the Soldier Field debut of what the team calls the Bear Raid siren, used to gin up crowd noise in key defensive situations. I’m not much of an NFL fan these days, but I do appreciate a good pun. So it was that same Bear Raid siren blaring in my mind while reading Hub Arkush’s recent analysis about the future of the franchise and its home turf.

On Thursday, Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips announced the organization “recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse property,” tripping waves of sports media speculation. I’ll leave all that discourse to those experts, but Arkush’s Friday piece should be alarming to everyone, regardless of fan status.

“Building a major entertainment venue with a casino, hotel, restaurants and bars, retail space, plenty of parking and perhaps even apartments or condos would do little for Chicago, but it would generate a ton of new revenue for Arlington Heights, Cook County and the state,” Arkush wrote. “And it would also almost certainly deliver Super Bowls, Final Fours, mega concerts and more convention business. Combine a new stadium with Wrigley, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field, and the city could still be in play for the Olympics, etc., and that could benefit Chicago, too, as most visitors are likely to want to stay downtown.”

Terrified yet?

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority has been a thorn in taxpayers’ side since its late-1980s creation paved the way for junking the original Comiskey Park, and it’s also responsible for the early 2000s Soldier Field renovation that cost nearly $400 million. There’s no way elected officials could stay out of yet another mega-development, which tends to mean using public money to offset the expenses of private companies that will make profits once games are played.

Sports owners have notoriously short arms when it comes to their own deep pockets but gladly open their palms wide for public handouts. Any talk of the Bears moving, or luring an Olympics or Final Four, should trigger warning sirens for anyone concerned about government waste.

Culinary Checklist update: I’ve invited readers to share favorite menu items from Illinois restaurants to create a collaborative “must-eat” list for summer road trips. Today’s comes from high school friends who studied at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Both recommend the Courier Cafe; suggested sandwiches are the turkey club or Monkey Stuff, followed by a peanut butter milkshake (or peanut butter and banana). Share your favorites via email or social media.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.