Local Tax Issues
Chicago Bears Fight Billionaire Gov. For Tax Breaks as Team Plans New Stadium
The Chicago Bears are one of the most storied organizations in the National Football League. The Bears were founded in 1920 and their legendary stadium, Soldier Field, opened as Municipal Grant Park Stadium on October 9, 1924. It was given its current name a year later.
Now, the team is making plans to leave Soldier Field behind after a century, and it's leading to some local drama regarding tax breaks.
Last week, the organization closed on a deal to purchase 326 acres in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, about an hour outside of the city. The McCaskey family, who owns the team, is planning a $5 billion mixed-use development featuring hotels, restaurants and offices with a new state-of-the-art stadium as the centerpiece.
In a statement, the Bears front office said they’re not looking for taxpayer money for the construction of Arlington Park but “for the development to move forward, and for this effort to be financially feasible, a public-private partnership addressing predictable taxes and necessary infrastructure funding for public uses is essential.”
It is not uncommon for taxpayers to help fund stadium projects. In fact, around the nation, local residents are on the hook for billions in stadium funding. The Tennessee Titans, for example, are using some taxpayer money to help fund their new Nashville facility.
The catch here is that the Bears have to convince Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D). Billionaire Pritzker, according to Forbes, is the wealthiest officeholder in the United States of America.
The politician recently stated that he does not support taxpayer funding for the new Bears facility. “I love the Bears,” he commented, “but it’s a private business, and I honestly don’t think the public has an obligation to fund, in this major way, a private business.”
Forbes noted that Pritzker's stance is ironic, given that he and his wealthy family have benefitted from numerous tax breaks in Illinois over the years. The article shared that in partially released 2014 tax returns, Pritzker and his wife paid no state income tax on their taxable income of $2.9 million.
At the time, a spokesperson for the couple said at the time that Pritzker “made personal venture capital investments in Illinois companies, which qualified him for angel investment tax credits.” The Chicago Sun-Times previously reported that Pritzker’s companies received $1.9 million in tax credits due to the tax incentive program over a two-year period of time.
At this time, the Chicago Bears organization has not publicly commented on the ongoing situation beyond announcing the Arlington Park deal.
What do you think? Should the Bears' new facility receive public funding?
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Feature Image Credit: Michael Reeves/Getty Images
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