Pride and Joy of Illinois? Leading state-owned enterprise group argues for tax relief for Bears


As a bill that would give the Chicago Bears massive Arlington Park property tax relief emerges in Springfield, the NFL franchise has major support in its corner.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch’s lobbying speech to lawmakers is practically a version of the fight song “Bear Down, Chicago Bears,” which proclaims the team as the “Pride and Joy of Illinois”.

“They deserve their place in front of the legislature. They are a huge economic engine and a source of pride for the state, so they deserve everything they can get,” said Maisch, whose organization is proposing a bill. which would create a new economic incentive program that Bears and large developers could leverage to pay less than the regular amount of property taxes on a given site.

Although the chamber’s support for the proposed payment-in-lieu funding mechanism suggests at least implicit support for a bear’s suburban relocation, Maisch said he’s not taking sides between Arlington Heights and Chicago.

“We think it’s really, really important for the Bears to stay in Illinois State, and there’s no reason they can’t be here. I’d love it if they could find a way to deal with the city of Chicago, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” Maisch said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s gonna be messy. Let’s be honest.”

The state’s main business advocacy organization and the Bears are leading a coalition in favor of the so-called PILOT funding tool that would allow developers ‘mega projects’ – those worth at least $500 million – to make negotiated payments to local tax agencies instead of the full amount of property taxes. Others that have signed on to the plan are the Illinois Highway and Transportation Builders Association and the Northwest Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The coalition has published a bill, but has not yet identified a sponsor for the bill.

It comes as a new term for the General Assembly has begun and the Bears prepare to close the deal in the coming weeks on a proposed $197.2 million purchase of the property from the 326-acre racetrack in Arlington Heights.

But the team’s planned closure with Churchill Downs Inc. is just one part of its ongoing due diligence process which also includes securing the necessary government approvals for its proposed $5 billion stadium and redevelopment. mixed-use — and figure out a way to pay for it all — before the first kickoff, which could be at least a decade away.

While the club has pledged to privately fund the construction of the stadium itself, the Bears brass are seeking public aid for infrastructure costs at a sprawling site they envision as a “365 entertainment district.” days a year”.

“As we have said publicly, property tax certainty is necessary for the Arlington Park project to move forward. We continue to do our due diligence on how this can be accomplished” , Bears spokesman Scott Hagel said in a statement. “We, and many other developers and organizations, support mechanisms like Mega Project PILOT because it provides a negotiated payment to local tax agencies that would exceed the revenue they currently receive from property while providing tax certainty to the developer. This tool is currently being used in many other states and would be invaluable in making Illinois more competitive in attracting and retaining megaprojects that create thousands of jobs and economic opportunities in our state.”

Under the bill, major redevelopments like the Bears’ Arlington Park project would be eligible for a 23-year assessment freeze, with the possibility of a 17-year extension. Instead of paying more taxes as the property increases in value, the Bears would make annual payments which are negotiated in an incentive agreement with Arlington Heights.

These payments, either fixed or subject to adjustment, would be distributed by the village to other local tax districts at percentages equal to their proportional share of property taxes.

The amounts and terms of the deal would be discussed in a public hearing at town hall before the village council votes, but other tax bodies, including schools, would not get a seat at the table. negotiations.

Proponents say the arrangement would not lead to an increase in local property taxes.

Local governments “don’t have to raise taxes because they already collect all taxes that are the same,” said Christian Beaudoin, a researcher and chief marketing officer at Chicago-based real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, which advises the Gate on the stadium project. “Quite simply, there is an offset on the taxes that would be paid on the new plot. So everyone is sort of cured of what they had before. There’s just a new plot that has a higher value high. These taxes are reduced.”

Beaudoin didn’t provide an estimate of how much the Bears could save during the incentive.

Such property tax offset programs — whether they’re called PILOT, PILT or something else — are used in 35 other states, he said. Most often, the programs have been used as incentives for large electric vehicle factories, battery factories and other manufacturers.

But an NFL team or a mixed-use development?

“Not that I know of personally,” Beaudoin said. “I haven’t seen this used for mixed-use development.”

That’s part of what could make PILOT a tough sell in Springfield, where there’s already been resistance to state financial aid.

Inserted into a bill creating a $400 million big business attraction fund earlier this month, there was language prohibiting “economic inducements to a professional sports organization that moves its operations from a part of the state to another part of the state”.

But Bears supporters such as Maisch plan to make an economic case to skeptical lawmakers.

“Legislators will decide what the appropriate balance is,” Maisch said. “But the Bears are a huge asset to the state of Illinois and they deserve every opportunity to make their point and say we want to be in Illinois, we want to have that economic development asset that will probably exist for the next 50 years. And give us our fair chance to convince the legislature that this is a very good idea.”



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