What candidates for governor say about state funding help for Bears’ move to Arlington Hts.

Election 2024
2022 Republican candidates for Illinois governor: top from left, Darren Bailey, Richard Irvin, Gary Rabine; and bottom from left, Paul Schimpf, Jesse Sullivan.

Typically at odds, the candidates for Illinois governor play as a team when it comes to whether the state should help fund a new Chicago Bears stadium at Arlington Park.

From downstate conservative Republicans to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the answer is “no,” with some nuances, their responses to Daily Herald questionnaires show.

The football team has not finalized a departure from Soldier Field, although its owners have hired architects and consultants to draft plans for a stadium on the former racetrack property.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who opposes the move, warned in April a redevelopment would cost “billions.” Candidates for governor were quick to say the state shouldn’t pony up any of that.

“If the Bears want to move to Arlington Park, they are free to do so, but it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to fund the move,” Republican state. Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia said.

Bailey’s June 28 GOP primary opponents are Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, McHenry County business owner Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, attorney Max Solomon of Hazel Crest and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg.

“Sports franchises across the country are finding ways to fund their own stadium projects. The Bears can do the same thing,” Bailey said. “We have a lot of working families struggling who need help more than professional sports teams.”

Irvin described himself as a Bears fan, “but with everything going on in Illinois right now, I don’t see taxpayers supporting state funding for a stadium.”

Illinois has an expensive history of using tax dollars to subsidize sports stadium projects, such as what became known as Guaranteed Rate Field in the late 1980s and renovations to Soldier Field in the early 2000s.

“As a state, Illinois has a terrible track record of government handouts for private enterprise, and the taxpayers of Illinois have taken a back seat for long enough,” Sullivan said.

Rabine is a “no, unless the citizens of Arlington Heights and/or the state of Illinois vote on a funding mechanism. I believe in free markets. I believe the less government intervention in the private sector marketplace the better, and the government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,” he said.

Schimpf noted he did not “support public financing of professional sports stadiums and will veto any legislation that does so.”

Meanwhile, Chicagoan Pritzker said he would be “disappointed” to see the Bears migrate to the suburbs.

“We are not currently considering using public funds for a new stadium,” the governor said. “As a private enterprise, the team is entitled to make the decisions that are best for them, and I hope they can continue to engage with Chicago city government and work out their differences.”

The other Democrat in the primary, registered nurse and activist Beverly Miles, has not yet submitted a questionnaire to the Daily Herald, and neither has Solomon.

Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said in May that franchise officials are expected to present preliminary stadium plans to the village board this fall.

• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.