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Thorner: Conservative groups debate whether or not to Feed the Chicago Bears

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By Nancy Thorner – 

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank founded in 1984, with headquarters at 3939 North Wilke Road, Arlington Heights, Illinois, held a discussion/debate titled Please Don’t Feed the Bears?, co-sponsored by Americans for Prosperity Illinois, at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center. Brian Costin is the state Deputy Director of Americans for Prosperity.  The debate centered around whether taxpayers should help build a stadium to bring the NFL to Arlington Heights.

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As background, the Chicago Bears signed a purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse in September 2021.  A move to the 326-acre property in Arlington Heights would allow the Bears ownership group to build not just a state-of-the-art NFL stadium, but create a modern “destination attraction” with hotels, restaurants, retail stores, offices, and homes.  The sale of the property, to the bears or another buyer, could be announced by the end of this year or early 2023.  As such the future of Chicago, the Bears, and many communities of the Northwest Suburbs could change drastically, and very soon.

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Prior to the debate, Jim Lakely, Vice President of Heartland and Director of Communications, welcomed attendees and further offered a brief history of The Heartland Institute.  Attendees were encouraged to check out Heartland’s podcasts and its many excellent offerings.

The debate featured Brian Costin, who worked at Heartland from 2007 – 2009 and for former Governor Rauner on policy before joining Americans for Prosperity, and James Taylor, President of The Heartland Institute.

Americans for Prosperity’s Costin argued against public subsidies

Although Costin had no opposition to the Bears coming to Arlington Heights, he opposed corporate welfare to build the stadium. 
 
Costin’s presentation focused on the potential impact of tax increment financing, or TIF district, that Arlington Heights could establish as a way to help finance the infrastructure associated with the mixed-use commercial and residential development proposed by the Bears.
 
Said Costin, Do the Bears really need subsidies?  Their net worth is $520 million dollars and their worth is growing in value.
 
The problem is who will pay for all the infrastructure needed such as roads, sidewalks, alleys, curbs, gutters, utility distribution lines, water supply systems, fire hydrants, sanitary and storm sewer systems, street lighting systems, landscaping, and even a school for students of the residents who will move into the residential development proposed by the Bears?
 
Arlington Heights does have Anti-Corporate Welfare Ordinance that prevents it from offering or extending any financial incentive to any business or corporation to operate in the village.
 
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James Taylor’s “devil advocate” argument for publicly funding the project
 
Without village representatives in attendance, even though they were invited, Heartland Institute President James Taylor made what he called a “devil’s advocate” argument for publicly funding the project.
 
Being skeptical of economic benefits, Taylor was concerned they will exceed the cost. 
 
As for the Bears stadium funding, Taylor suggested that public funding consideration also be given to help fund a variety of cultural attractions, especially in the arts. 
 
“Arlington Heights, (according to) publicly available numbers, spends a little over $200,000 each year on its Metropolis Performing Arts Center,” Taylor said. “That facility draws roughly 50,000 attendees per year, which equates to a subsidy of about $4 per attendee.”
 
Taylor said that based on projected attendance levels at a potential Bears stadium, the Bears’ subsidy per fan would actually be lower at about $3 per attendee.
 
“If you’re not going to oppose those other subsidies, I think you have to find a good reason why you would oppose subsidizing the Bears,” Taylor said.
 
Further consideration
 
Americans for Prosperity launched a poll that said 72% of those surveyed in Arlington Heights supported moving the Bears to the village, but 68% opposed using public money to bring them to Arlington Heights.
 
Arlington Heights has taken some preliminary steps regarding redevelopment, including hiring of two consultants for economic impact and traffic analysis.
 
View here the YouTube presentation of The Heartland Institute’s presentation of Please Don’t Feed the Bears?    https://youtu.be/Mu0Yz-IORkM.
The Heartland Institute will hold its 38th annual benefit dinner on Friday, October 22, 2022. It will.be held at the Marriott O’Hare in Chicago, Illinois.  More information at this link: https://benefit.heartland.org/
 
Photos by Mark Weyermuller 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. This is what they want to debate instead of how we lost Northwest Cook County Golden Corridor to Democrats? Cmon we can’t get local CEOs in the area to support us more? We should not have lost those Cook County Commissioner positions and Patlak should not have lost too. No more TIF Districts then cry broke when 30% of the budget is diverted to these TIF Districts!

  2. Superb article, Nancy!
    Don’t feed the Chicago Bears!!!!
    Really, how much welfare do the immensely wealthy owners of NFL teams need, as many in the public are victimized by the addiction to the game and the gambling that it now promotes???

  3. I attended this meeting. During the questioning/answer at the end of the meeting one interesting thought- idea was posed. Route 53 adjacent to the property and major access to the proposed stadium needs major work. ??? Will the Illinois Tollway take over the highway and rebuild it ?