Pound for pound the funniest headline for the last week, if not month, came from the unlikeliest source—Crain’s Chicago Business.
Not widely known for its knee-slappers.
But in this case they had me laughing out loud, when a few days ago they posed the following question in a mass e-mailed clickbait post: “A new Bears stadium: Who’d pay for it?”
For real, Crain’s? You don’t know the answer to that question? C’mon, you’ve been covering the same handouts-to-the-rich, trickle-down-to-everyone-else economy I’ve been covering. So I think we all know who won’t be paying for the new stadium.
The Bears! The team on whose behalf it would be built.
You know, I may be assuming too much here. Not everyone is as nutty about sports as I am. Or, in this case, not everyone has wasted thousands of hours over the last 55 years watching the Bears!
So allow me to write just the briefest of primers for sports-clueless writers who suddenly find themselves having to write about the Bears.
Here’s everything you need to know . . .
They’re cheap! I mean really cheap. As in C-H-E-A-P kind of cheap.
Also, they’re clinically incapable of hiring a coach who knows anything about offense. But let’s not overwhelm beginners on the first day of class. Back to the main lesson.
The Bears are so cheap that Mike Ditka—I assume everyone at Crain’s knows who he is—once proclaimed that they throw nickels around like manhole covers.
Greatest line MAGA Mike ever uttered—almost enough to make me forgive him for all the right-wing drivel he’s uttered over the years.
He was talking about Papa Bear George Halas, who founded the team. But as any Bears player can tell you, it also applies to the McCaskeys, Halas’s descendants, who currently run the show over there.
That’s why I confidently predict that the Bears won’t offer a nickel—or manhole cover—for their new playpen. Even though, again, they’re the ones who will profit from it.
No, the whole point of the Bears agreeing to buy Arlington International Racecourse is to fire up the bidding war between Arlington Heights and Chicago as to which set of saps will pick up the bill.
So, who’s going to pay for Papa Bear’s stadium? The property taxpayers in whichever city loses that bidding war. And by losing I mean “wins.”
At the moment, my money’s on Arlington Heights, as their city leaders seem to be frothing at the mouth at the prospect of wasting public dollars on a really bad football team.
And their means for paying for the stadium will probably be my old friend—Mr. TIF.
And now Arlingtonians, or whatever you call citizens of Arlington Heights—time for a brief primer on tax increment financing.
A TIF is a surcharge your leaders slap on your property tax. The money goes into a bank account largely controlled by your leaders, only to be withdrawn for alleged economic development schemes, no matter how harebrained.
In this case, that scheme is a stadium for the Bears, who don’t need one ’cause Soldier Field is more than adequate. And they don’t deserve one, because they really do suck.
In short, Arlington Heights, it looks as though your thirsty leaders are getting ready to give millions, and millions, and millions of your property tax dollars to the McCaskeys so they can build a stadium that will make their team even richer than it is. Last I looked, the Bears were valued at $4 billion.
So that’s my answer to the question Crain’s posed.
There is one caveat—man, I love speaking Latin.
Chicago might step in to waste its money on the Bears.
I know you’re thinking, Arlingtonians, why would a city that’s always on the edge of going broke waste property tax dollars on a stadium that will just make it broker? Because they can’t help themselves. Chicago loves throwing money at the rich.
So look for various civic and corporate Chicagoans to tell us how damaging it would be to the soul of the city if the Bears were to leave.
And how bad it would be for Mayor Lightfoot to let them leave.
And then get ready for various political trash talkers to say this wouldn’t happen if Mayors Daley or Rahm were in charge.
Thereby putting more pressure on Mayor Lightfoot to give in to the Bears’s extortion. But I still think the dubious honor will fall to Arlington Heights.
In which case, more bad news, Arlingtonians, if your TIF program is run as dishonestly and untruthfully as Chicago’s.
You will be subjected to enormous amounts of truth stretching. As the F in TIF could very well stand for fibbing.
They’ll tell you the money is not really for the Bears, it’s for “infrastructure.” So you’ll think you’re getting better streets or something.
Mayor Rahm fed Chicagoans the infrastructure line and they bought it.
Well, at least the City Council did. In 2019, Mayor Rahm got them to agree to give Sterling Bay over $1 billion to construct Lincoln Yards, an upscale development in an already gentrifying area.
Mouthing talking points scripted by the mayor, aldermen said they’d be building bridges and new roads. As though Sterling Bay was just a bystander.
So if you fall for the infrastructure hype, Arlington Heights, you will be as gullible as a Chicago alderman.
Also, Arlingtonians, the Bears TIF would raise your property taxes, even as your leaders tell you it won’t. But enough football and TIF lessons for the day.
Bottom line, I hate to be the bearer (yuck, yuck, yuck) of bad news, Arlingtonians, but if some sucker has to pay for the Bears stadium fantasies, all I can say is . . .
Better you than me.