A detailed view of the Chicago Bears helmet before the game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chicago Bears purchased the land that used to hold Arlington International Racecourse in February 2023, it felt like just a matter of time before the team would start building a new stadium, moving to the suburbs after over 100 years in the city of Chicago.

Almost a year later, progress has been minimal.

The existing structures of the racecourse have been demolished, a forgone conclusion for whoever bought the land as the previous owner, Churchill Downs Inc., no longer desired to host horse racing at the track. The Bears footed the bill for the demolition costs, and it seemed things would finally start to fruition.

Another issue has been brewing behind the scenes and was brought into the public eye on Tuesday, as the Bears and three area school districts are reportedly $100 million apart on the value of the land, which has led to both sides presenting their case to the Cook County Board of Review to determine just how much the Bears would have to pay in property taxes every year for the site.

The property was assessed at $197 million in July, precisely what the Bears paid for it. Still, the team has since argued that another assessment would find the price lower after the demolition of multiple buildings and other structures on the site.

While the three-person review board has yet to decide, Board Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. seemingly agrees with the Bears’ argument. He said, via Chicago’s Daily Herald, “We’ve seen a lot of problems in terms of the assessments that have come out of the assessor’s office, And sales chasing is a grave concern in particular with this case, based upon the value that the assessor and the published sale price set.”

In short, ‘sales chasing’ refers to an assessment based on the sale price and not the cost of the land itself. Scott Metcalf, the attorney representing the school districts, agreed that sales chasing valuations may be improper but added, “Vacant parcels are assessed based on the circumstances of each parcel.”

The sides have been in talks trying to work out a settlement for weeks, and while Tuesday’s meeting may seem like a bad sign, Metcalf said that the only reason the case was presented to the board was because “we don’t have a deal yet.”

[Daily Herald]