Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson wants to keep the city’s NFL team in Chicago.
The mayor met with the president and CEO of the Chicago Bears on Wednesday, the same day Johnson said in an unrelated news conference that he wants to keep the Bears in the city despite the team’s moves in recent months to find additional tax revenue. The new home of Rest, Chicago Tribune Report.
Neither side released specifics on any proposals or fees related to keeping the team in Chicago.
The Bears and Johnson did, however, issue a joint statement Wednesday emphasizing the team’s long history in Chicago.
“Today we met and discussed our shared values and commitment to the City of Chicago, the importance of deep roots and the need for equitable community investment across the city,” the statement said. “We are all committed to the idea that cities and their key municipal institutions must grow and evolve together to meet the needs of the future. We look forward to continued dialogue around these shared values.”
The Bears have been flirting with the idea of a new home for more than a year since the team initially announced it was exploring a relocation to Arlington Heights.
Although the team has previously said its sole focus is the demolition of Arlington International Raceway and the redevelopment of the former racetrack into a stadium and surrounding entertainment area, which will cost $5 billion and take a year, the Bears also announced in Naperville last week. Meetings held with leadership. The idea of building a stadium in Naperville began after a reassessment of the racetrack’s property tax value caused its tax bill to multiply after the Bears purchased the property from Churchill Downs for $197 million.
The team reached a tentative agreement with Cook County officials to reduce the tax bill for the coming year to $7.8 million from the more than $16 million the Bears would have to pay under the reassessment. But the agreement still makes the property more expensive to hold than would be ideal for a redevelopment project, the Bears said, and they are open to exploring options beyond Arlington Heights.
Much of the team’s concerns stem from an aging home at Chicago’s Soldier Field, currently the NFL’s smallest and oldest stadium with a capacity of 61,500. The stadium is also aging. Built in 1924, it was last renovated in 2002—a renovation that was criticized in some circles—and the building was delisted as a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
It’s unclear what the city can or can offer the Bears to stay, but it may need additional tax dollars to improve or upgrade Soldier Field or a whole new stadium.
The Arlington Heights deal isn’t entirely off the table, either, as the team’s executives plan to meet about 300 people in Arlington Heights in an invitation-only meeting in the coming weeks, according to the Tribune.
“We will directly [Chicago Bears President] Kevin Warren talks about his experience developing the stadium and making Arlington Park the home of the Chicago Bears,” the conference announcement said.