Mayor Wehrli meets with Chicago Bears about building team’s new stadium in Naperville

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It was announced on Friday that Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli recently met with the Chicago Bears about the team considering Naperville as the choice for the organization’s new stadium location.

Mayor highlights Naperville’s benefits for Chicago Bears location

A statement from Naperville’s Director of Communications, Linda LaCloche reads, “Last week, Mayor Wehrli reached out to the Chicago Bears organization to introduce Naperville as a thriving community with multiple opportunities for business investment. With economic development as one of his primary focuses, the Mayor will continue to highlight Naperville’s benefits to businesses throughout Chicagoland and across the country. These benefits include having the second largest economy in Illinois, along with a highly educated workforce, top ranked public safety, a vibrant downtown, excellent public transit and close proximity to major interstates, making it an attractive community for all types of business investment.”

Specifics on what locations or properties in Naperville would be considered have not been disclosed.

Bears finalized a land purchase agreement of Arlington Park in February

The Bears had been eyeing Arlington Heights initially for its new location.

In September of 2021 the Bears purchased Arlington Park, previously owned by Churchill Downs, in hopes of using the space as a future home for the team’s new stadium. The team then announced a master plan in November of 2022 and the deal was finalized in February of this year. However, the purchase of the 326 acre plot of land in Arlington Heights did not guarantee that the land would be developed.

The Bears have begun interior demolition at Arlington Park and now seek permission for exterior demolition, but that has not yet been approved. The Bears currently play at Soldier Field in Chicago, which is owned by the Chicago Park District. The organization has considered new locations several times over the past several decades.

The Bears announced on Friday that they will indeed be considering other locations for a new stadium, besides Arlington Heights.

“We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus,” Scott Hagel, the Bears senior vice president of marketing and communications said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to listen to other municipalities in Chicagoland about potential locations that can deliver on this transformational opportunity for our fans, our club and the state of Illinois.”

Naperville throws its hat into the ring

In the letter sent to new Bears President Kevin Warren last week, Wehrli touted Naperville’s accessibility.

The city may be reached by the east-west Interstate 88 and the north-south Interstate 355, as well the downtown Metra train station. There are also Metra stops in nearby Lisle and on Route 59 in Aurora.

“We have several available or to-be-available sites that may fit the characteristics you are looking for in your future home,” Wehrli wrote in his letter to Warren. “Like you, I am new to my role. I pledged to pursue responsible economic development to support Naperville’s thriving economy. “Being the home of the Chicago Bears would unlock tremendous economic benefits for our community.”

One year tax settlement reached with Arlington Heights

On June 1, a settlement was reached in the property tax battle between Churchill Downs, the former owner of the Arlington Park, and surrounding school districts who stand to benefit from the increased tax bill.

But it is only a one-year deal, which means the land’s value will be re-assessed in the coming months. That sets the stage for the Bears to battle over the value once the team is responsible for paying the property taxes.

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