Arlington Heights officials: Arlington Park redevelopment is top priority

As demolition of the Arlington Park grandstand nears completion, elected officials at Arlington Heights village hall declared Tuesday that redevelopment of the old racetrack is their top priority.

It probably goes without saying, but the Arlington Heights Village Board has formally declared it in writing: The redevelopment of Arlington Park is the elected panel’s top priority.

The board Tuesday night adopted that and eight other strategic priorities for 2024 and 2025, which follows the mayor’s and trustees’ more in-depth discussion at a goal setting retreat in July.

Formally, village officials commit to “work with the Chicago Bears Football Club, our residents and business, and all other local, regional and statewide partners to develop a responsible, mutually beneficial, and one-of-a-kind redevelopment plan for the former Arlington Racetrack site that benefits our community’s interests and is worthy of the property’s legacy.”

The language is slightly more verbose than a similar bullet point board members approved two years ago, when the still-operating racetrack was for sale but the NFL franchise hadn’t yet inked a $197.2 million purchase of the 326-acre site.

The Bears, who finalized the deal in February, are now in a protracted battle over their property tax payments to three Arlington Heights-area school districts. That’s delayed progress on parking, traffic and economic impact studies as part of the village’s review and approval process for the proposed $5 billion megadevelopment.

“We continue to work almost daily and communicate regularly with the Chicago Bears,” Village Manager Randy Recklaus said after the meeting Tuesday night. “We’re in regular communication with the school districts and a lot of other stakeholders to resolve the outstanding issues so we can continue a path forward, and that has not changed. This is a big, complicated project, and there are many details to work out, and we are working them out.”

Approval of the board’s priorities comes about two weeks after trustees hired lobbyists who could influence the cut of revenue the village gets from a proposed stadium redevelopment. Proposed legislation that would give the Bears a long-term property tax break faces an uphill battle in Springfield this fall.