If the Chicago Bears move to Arlington Heights, their future neighbors are hoping to cash in on the move. Business owners and homeowners believe a new football stadium on the site of the former Arlington International Racecourse would bring an influx of fans and greater demand for real estate.
John Steinken, who lives in Palatine within walking distance of the site, is a Green Bay Packers fan, but in this case, he’s rooting for the Bears. A union electrician, he and his sister live in the same house his parents bought in 1954. They have a double lot next door where they play horseshoes. It’s property that he hopes to sell for retirement money if the team moves.
“I would support it here,” he said of the stadium.
An analysis of housing prices in Arlington Heights suggests that the Bears may already be having an effect on the market. Median sales prices in the three closest ZIP codes in the village increased 14% through October in the year after the team announced its preliminary agreement to buy the now-shuttered racecourse, according to figures from the National Association of Realtors, while prices in the Chicago metropolitan area rose only 5%.
Similarly, the local Bowers Realty Group reports that median sale prices for single-family homes in neighboring Palatine increased 7% to nearly $400,000 in the past year. Prices in Rolling Meadows, which also borders the track, have not appreciated as much, but have been selling more quickly recently.
The increase came despite rising interest rates and uncertainty over whether the team will move. The Bears have proposed building a new enclosed stadium as part of $5 billion worth of apartments, condominiums, bars, restaurants and parks.
Team officials appear intent to buy the 326-acre site for $197 million, but aren’t rushing it. Bears Chair George McCaskey said this week that while the racetrack property remains the team’s “singular focus,” officials are still trying to determine whether they can close the deal in the first quarter of this year. New Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren added that it’s critical that “we’re methodical, we’re detailed and we take the time to plan it properly.”
Even if they buy it, as expected, team executives say they won’t go forward with the development without a government subsidy of the infrastructure costs.
[ How Chicago-area home values compare by ZIP code ]
The real estate market in Arlington Heights had been trending up previously as well, so it’s unclear how much the Bears might have influenced housing prices. Studies elsewhere, such as in Washington, D.C., have found that sports stadiums correlated with increasing housing prices, with the effect most concentrated closely to the field. But at least two studies have also found that stadium subsidies lower housing values.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said he believes the increased demand for housing in the village is more likely due to the traditional reasons: good schools and quality of life. Hayes also noted a recent trend toward building new high-rise rental properties in the village.
Rental properties are believed to be more susceptible to increased prices than single-family homes. One study involving the Federal Reserve Bank found that rents increased an annual average of 8% in downtown areas that had NFL teams between 1993 and 1999, more than elsewhere.
Housing became a big issue in Inglewood, California, after the construction of Sofi Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. Home prices rose 63% from 2014, as the project came together, to 2018, PropertyShark reported. Demonstrators protested against rent increases, displacement and homelessness, causing the city to implement rent control.
In Arlington Heights, real estate agent Shay Hata said none of her clients has wanted to move specifically to be closer to the Bears, but investors were likely to buy properties nearby in speculation of rising prices, and possibly to rent them out through Airbnb or other short-term rentals.
A more common concern among buyers is traffic. Some are buying in surrounding suburbs with the hope of the Bears moving, but don’t want to be so close they’ll have to deal with the crowds and craziness, she said.
“In general,” she said, “we’ve seen high demand in Arlington Heights more driven by people wanting to get out of the city and have more space for working from home. To me, it’s much more so because of COVID than the Bears.”
In neighboring Palatine, Mayor Jim Schwantz is a former Bears player himself who remembers kicker Kevin Butler having to get a Chicago Park District worker to unlock Soldier Field to practice there. He welcomes the team moving to the northwest suburbs.
His main concern, he said, is traffic cutting through residential neighborhoods and clogging Route 14 (Northwest Highway), which runs through Palatine on the way to the park. In addition, any property tax withheld for the development could affect Palatine Community Consolidated School District 15.
With infrastructure costs possibly exceeding $1 billion, he said, “There are a lot of unanswered questions. There’s a lot of hurdles to clear.”
Despite the uncertainties, current property owners can dream of a payoff.
Ken More, a Farmers Insurance Group agent, owns an office building on a small lot across the street from Arlington Park. He’s hoping a Bears move may attract buyers for the property.
Just as new development has sprung up near stadiums for the White Sox, Cubs, the United Center and Soldier Field, he’s hoping the same would happen near Arlington Park. Despite the Bears’ plan to build their own housing and businesses developments, More is optimistic.
“I don’t think this could do anything but help me,” he said.