Arlington Heights residents favor a Bears stadium, but not taxes, according to a libertarian poll. But the mayor is wary of interrogations.

A new poll commissioned by a libertarian group found that Arlington Heights residents support the Chicago Bears moving from Soldier Field to their village, but oppose any tax subsidies to help the team do so.

The poll released Tuesdayfound that 72% of respondents approved of the Bears’ proposal to build a stadium at the closed Arlington International Raceway, but 68% opposed using tax dollars to help the team.

The poll also found strong support for an ordinance barring Arlington Heights from using taxpayer funds to build a stadium or other “corporate welfare” by a 55%-30% margin.

The poll was funded by Americans for Prosperity-Illinois, a group founded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, and surveyed 300 registered voters in the village.

Brian Kostin, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement that residents are “sending a message to the village to end its ongoing flirtation with corporate welfare programs.”

Mayor Tom Hayes said he could not comment specifically without seeing the poll, but noted that the questions could be skewed to affect the results.

The first question of the survey, for example, asks voters whether they approve of “selective treatment of giant specialty companies” or equal treatment of all businesses, the latter of which was supported by 64% of respondents.

Hayes ruled out any tax assistance for the Bears’ proposed move and said the Village Board would fight Americans for Prosperity Petition. calling for an ordinance that would prohibit any taxpayer incentives in the village.

The big concern, Hayes said, is that such a ban would affect all development in the village, not just bears.

“This would put us at a serious competitive disadvantage compared to surrounding municipalities,” he said.

Any tax breaks would be limited and intended as an investment that would pay off for the entire taxing body through more development and future property taxes, Hayes said.

The primary tool for rural development is tax increment financing, in which property tax revenues to taxing entities such as schools are kept at their current level and any increased property tax revenue is used to build roads and other infrastructure to improve the use of the site for private construction.

According to Americans for Prosperity, the village has four current TIFs.

The model for such a program, Hayes said, is downtown Arlington Heights, which has transformed from a sleepy suburban neighborhood into a thriving place with high-rise condominiums, bars, restaurants and a performing arts center.

That TIF has since been discontinued and the full property tax is now paid to all taxing authorities.

Americans for Prosperity argued the Bears don’t need that kind of help, especially after the National Football League recently signed a $110 billion media deal worth more than $3 billion per team.

In September 2021, the Bears announced that they had signed a purchase agreement buy racetrack property from Churchill Downs Inc. for $197 million, pending final approval by both parties. Churchill Downs Inc. later closed the famous hippodrome. To build a new stadium in Arlington, the Bears had to terminate their lease at Soldier Field.

Mayor of Chicago Laurie Lightfoot recently unveiled plans for Soldier Field it could cost as much as $2.2 billion as part of its ongoing campaign to keep bears from moving into Arlington Heights.

The Bears have played at Soldier Field since moving from Wrigley Field in 1971. They played the 2002 season at Champs Memorial Stadium while Soldier Field was renovated at a cost of $690 million.


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