The Chicago Bears’ plans to plant goalposts in the suburbs took a surprising turn Friday afternoon when Naperville Mayor Scott Werley met with team president Kevin Warren to discuss the possibility of building a new NFL stadium in Naperville instead of in Arlington Heights.
The meeting between Wehrli and Warren took place despite the team’s purchase of 326 acres in Arlington Park on the western edge of Arlington Heights for $197.2 million. The deal to buy the indoor racetrack closed in February.
Werley sent Warren a letter dated May 24, called A Formal Introduction to the Beers “When you consider or re-evaluate your planned relocation. The City welcomes the opportunity to review your business needs and the property we have available.”
The talks come as demolition work begins at Arlington Park and Arlington Heights officials wait for the Bears to present more detailed plans outlining the organization’s vision for a potential $5 billion redevelopment of the Arlington Park site that will center around a new domed stadium.
On Friday, the Bears released a statement saying they are now looking at opportunities for stadiums other than Arlington Park.
“We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work to move Arlington Heights forward, but it is no longer our sole focus,” Scott Hagel, Bears’ senior vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to hear from other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can provide this transformative opportunity for our fans, our club, and the state of Illinois.”
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes acknowledged Friday that the Bears, as a for-profit organization, “should be looking at all of its options.” But the village was “greatly encouraged” that the Peers had purchased the Arlington Park property.
“We’ve come a long way down the road in terms of redeveloping this site,” said Hayes. “I understand that there are challenges ahead that still need to be overcome. But I still believe that the Arlington Park property is a very unique property that will be in the Bears’ interest for their ballpark for the next 50 years or more.”
Hayes said team officials Friday morning provided the village with information about the Naperville meeting.
“I told them at the time that I definitely knew they had to do their due diligence, and when someone calls them, they should take the call,” Hayes said. “I will do the same. And so, I just have confidence that the Arlington Park property is the best option for the Bears going forward. But we still have a long way to go in terms of turning that into a reality, and we have to do our due diligence as well in terms of ensuring that it’s a win-win.” for us “.
According to Linda Lacloche, Naperville’s director of communications, Werley last week reached out to Warren to introduce Naperville as “a thriving community with multiple business investment opportunities.”
“With economic development as one of his primary focuses, the Mayor will continue to highlight the benefits of Naperville to businesses across Chicagoland and across the country,” said LaCloche.
LaCloche did not mention the specific properties of Naperville that were being discussed to build a stadium. Since the city is devoid of a large enough vacant lot, it is likely that an existing developer site will need to be bulldozed and redeveloped.
Werley wrote to Warren that, as a lifelong Bears fan, he respected the team’s decision to build its own stadium as “essential to success on the field and to pursuing championships.”
The Bears currently play at Soldier Field in Chicago, which is owned and operated by the Chicago Garden District. Bears officials said the arrangement limited the team’s ability to maximize its revenue.
This isn’t the first time you’ve hoped the Bears would move to the suburbs. Over the years, the bears have studied sites in Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Aurora, Elk Grove Village, and Waukegan. and once in Arlington Heights.
Wehrli’s letter describes Naperville as accessible by major interstates, such as East-West Interstate 88 and North-South Interstate 355, as well as the downtown Metra train station. There are also metro stations in nearby Leslie and on Route 59 in Aurora.
The meeting is a major milestone for Fairlie, who was elected in April and has only served as mayor for one month. A lifelong resident of Naperville with family roots in the community dating back to the 1840s, his letter to Warren emphasizes the impact the NFL stadium has had on the city.
Werley wrote to Warren, “We have several locations available or will be available that may suit the characteristics you are looking for in your future home.” “Like you, I am new to my role. I have made a commitment to pursue responsible economic development in support of Naperville’s thriving economy.” Being the home of the Chicago Bears would unlock enormous economic benefits for our community. “
Werley also emphasizes the various business groups in Naperville and the ability of city staff to keep track of and complete major business developments.
“I have been on the board of the Naperville Development Partnership, the city’s economic development partner, in my private capacity as a business owner and community banker,” he wrote. “This group has a proven track record of working with companies to make investments in Naperville the right decision for their organization and our community.”
• Daily Herald writer Caitlin Smith contributed to this report
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