Naperville mayor responds to reports of Bears stadium talks   

Close up of Naperville mayor Scott Wehrli on council dais discussing Bears pitch
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Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli spoke out publicly about his pitch to the Chicago Bears at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Reports surfaced this weekend of Wehrli asking the team to consider Naperville as a location for their new stadium.

“I, along with members of the Naperville Development Partnership and city staff and a city council representative, have recently held conversations with leadership of the Chicago Bears about potential business opportunities in Naperville,” Wehrli said in a prepared statement at the start of the meeting.

Bears widening net for stadium proposals

Talks of potentially bringing Naperville into the fold surfaced after a pivotal announcement from Bears leadership on Friday as a new stadium venue site is sought.

Arlington Heights is no longer a “singular focus,” according to a statement from team representatives. The team in February purchased Arlington Park for $197.2 million to relocate the Bears from Chicago to the suburb, but talks between both sides have stalled over disagreements of property valuation.

Wehrli said he and other city representatives initiated preliminary discussions, noting the opportunity in play as the Arlington Heights proposal has stalled.

“Discussions like this are standard, and a principled economic development practice, especially in a competitive regional environment like ours,” Wehrli said.

‘They’re conversations’

Throughout his brief statement, Wehrli said his overtures to Bears leadership were only intended to begin a dialogue and do not put Naperville into any type of agreement at this time.

“These conversations are just that — they’re conversations,” Wehrli said. “No development proposal was submitted to the city, no incentives were discussed or offered by either party in these meetings.”

If Naperville were to initiate any type of agreement with the team, Wehrli said it would come after a thorough process that would incorporate input from all city stakeholders.

“No decisions have been made by anyone at city hall,” Wehrli said. “We will follow our established procedures if an idea evolves into an official development proposal.”

Speaking to the steps that would be taken, Wehrli said, “Our city applies a robust public input and review process, including numerous opportunities for community input, review by relevant boards and commissions and, ultimately, a very public process before the city council.”

Critics share their thoughts

Wehrli’s statement touched on the potential economic benefits a Bears stadium could bring to Naperville. But out of the gate, there are concerns of the impact a venue of this magnitude could have on the community.

Resident Steven Shamrock was the only speaker to address the Bears proposal directly at Tuesday’s city council meeting. He raised a number of questions and concerns, including the impact the stadium could have on municipal resources, as well as crime and traffic impacts.

“This is a massive project that involves fundamental changes to the character, livability, cost, environment and healthiness of our town,” Shamrock said.

Wehrli did not name the city council representative who joined him in the preliminary talks. But over the weekend, Councilman Ian Holzhauer took to social media and stated he was not involved.

“I had no part in the Bears stadium letter, even though it purported to be ‘on behalf of the City of Naperville,’” Holzhauer wrote. He later stated, “I learned of the Bears letter in real time, just like you.”

photo courtesy: City of Naperville

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