Value of Bears’ Arlington Heights property stays at $192M, Board of Review decides – NBC Chicago

As the Chicago Bears’ battle over their property taxes in Arlington Heights continues, the Cook County Board of Review informed the team Wednesday of its decision to leave the property’s value at $192 million, which would roughly quintuple their tax bill.

That decision puts heightened pressure on the Bears and three area school districts, which rely on those property taxes for their funding, to reach an agreement in their ongoing negotiations over exactly how much that 326-acre site is worth.

The Bears bought that property that once housed the former Arlington International Racecourse for $197.2 million in February 2023, aiming to build a multi-billion dollar stadium development on the site with restaurants, retail, residential real estate and more.

Meanwhile, as part of the triennial reassessment, the Cook County Assessor’s Office increased the value of the property from $33 million to $197 million. Property taxes in Cook County lag by a year, leaving former owner Churchill Downs on the hook for the first bill at the higher value. Churchill Downs negotiated a one-year agreement with the school districts, which intervened in the appeal, for a $95 million value. The responsibility for the bill then shifted to the Bears, who now continue to negotiate with the districts.

At a January 30 Board of Review hearing on the issue, the Bears’ attorney said the team submitted two appraisals, one for $60 million and the other for $71 million. The Bears’ lawyer argued the Assessor’s Office inflated the value of the land relative to other, similarly sized sales, asking the Board of Review to reduce the value to $60 million.  

Negotiations over the Chicago Bears’ property tax bill are ongoing, with the fate of an Arlington Heights stadium development in the balance as the team and the surrounding school districts remain $100 million apart in their valuations of the site, NBC Chicago’s Alex Maragos reports.

In that same hearing, the school districts’ attorney said the appraisal they submitted found the site to be worth $160 million, leaving a $100 million gap between the two sides. The Board of Review’s period to accept a settlement closes Saturday, with the valuation slated to be sent to the assessor’s office for certification at the end of the month.

Once the value is certified, if a settlement hasn’t been reached, the Bears could appeal to the Property Tax Appeal Board or file a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, though both would likely be lengthy processes.

“If the Bears want Arlington Heights to happen, I think they’re going to have to budge way further than they want to,” NBC Sports Chicago’s Bears Insider Josh Schrock said.

The Bears have long said – even as they purchased the site – that they needed property tax “certainty” before they can build. And the battle over the property taxes has put the possibility of staying within the city of Chicago back on the table, as the team has reopened the conversation with Mayor Brandon Johnson, who took office after the Bears purchased the Arlington Heights property.  

“I think the stagnation in the talks between the school districts and the Bears can only tell you that the Bears are at least really considering trying to find a way to stay in the city,” Schrock said. “I think there’s more momentum that way now than there was a year ago.”

“This is all part of the long, slow dance that many of us expected between the Bears and their next home,” said longtime Bears commentator David Haugh.

“It’s essentially: who is going to blink first? And I believe the Bears are wanting people to think they’re prepared to wait, to wait it out,” Haugh said.

“Why did the Bears get in this position to begin with? They wanted to own their own stadium. That’s how you get ahead as an NFL owner. The McCaskeys want to be able to keep the money they make at their own stadium,” he added. “This is a game of leverage.”

“Once they get it all built, they’re going to make that money back in concerts and tourism and should they ever want to sell the team, the valuation is going to go through the roof because you have all of that land,” Schrock said. “I think in the end it’s just going to be: how much do the Bears value that? And are they willing to eat a little bit upfront for the pay down the road?”

When reached for comment on the Board of Review’s decision, a spokesman for the Bears referred back to the comments the team’s attorney made during the hearing last month.

A spokesman for the school districts declined to comment.  

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