Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips dropped a near-nuclear-sized bomb at the end of the team’s veteran minicamp Thursday and announced in a statement that the organization had made an offer to buy Arlington Park.
While Arlington Heights is a great city and could be a wonderful new home for the bears, this announcement is as close as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson becomes the next President of the United States.
This season will be my 45th on the Bears Beat. Rumors of the construction of a Bears Stadium at the sight of Arlington Park have been around for almost as long as I have.
Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., the property owner, said it had “strong proposals from numerous parties” for the redevelopment of the route.
It’s not hard to figure out why the McCaskeys or other future owners of the Bears want to build their own stadium.
At $ 3.5 billion, the Bears are the NFL’s seventh most valuable franchise just a few weeks ago, according to Forbes magazine.
Among the top eight, the Patriots (second), Giants (third), Rams (fourth), Jets (sixth) and Washington (eighth) each have their own stadiums. The Cowboys (first) don’t own an AT&T stadium, but Jerry Jones is in control of operations and owns all kinds of real estate.
Only the 49ers (fifth) are tenants like the Bears, but they play in one of the league’s newest football palaces, which provides significant additional revenue streams.
I have no idea what the Arlington property is being sold for. For the sake of conversation, let’s say it’s in the range of $ 200 million, which is roughly the cost of rebuilding it after the 1985 fire.
The McCaskey family could probably swing that.
But the current rate for new NFL stadiums appears to be in the $ 2 billion range. The SoFi stadium in Los Angeles reportedly cost $ 2.2 billion (a $ 5 billion complex, but only $ 2.2 billion for the stadium portion). The Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas reportedly cost $ 2 billion. Each has been completed in the past few years.
Stan Kroenke is the wealthiest owner in the NFL, so he only went to the cash register to pay for the Rams’ new playground.
But Raiders owner Marc Davis is one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL (no poor here folks) and he needed $ 750 million in public – read taxpayers – money from the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada and a $ 650 million loan from Bank of America to build the Raiders’ building.
I don’t know the McCaskeys ‘personal wealth, but it’s safe to say that they are closer to Davis’ neighborhood than to Kroenke.
According to Vox, more than $ 7 billion in tax dollars has been spent building NFL stadiums over the past 20 years.
Given the financial condition in Illinois, what are the chances that taxpayers will raise nickel on a stadium for the Bears? Not to mention that even if they got $ 750 million payday for the Raiders, would they still be looking for another $ 1.25 billion or so to quit the job?
Stranger things have happened, but we have no idea where the bears stand among the various bidders.
The most likely scenario here is, even if the bears are the winners, it would be to hold the property to add value to the franchise when it is eventually sold to someone who could afford a new stadium.
Reports continue to show that the team is not for sale.
Unless there’s a mysterious mega-bank, hedge fund, or potential real estate development partner out there who wants to pay the bill.
This is going to be a story for the foreseeable future and beyond, and I doubt even the McCaskeys know how it will turn out.
After all, it’s been a story for over 40 years and what has happened so far?
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush