Jim Schwantz is in a unique position to address the possibility of the Chicago Bears moving to Arlington Park.
Not only would the former Bears linebacker be closer to the stadium – as a co-host of the pre-game and post-game WBBM radio shows for two decades now – but as the mayor of a town which borders the racetrack, Schwantz believes a Bears moving to Arlington Heights would produce positive economic benefits for Palatine and other neighboring areas.
“It would be an exceptional thing for everyone involved,” said Schwantz, who played for the Chicago NFL franchise in 1992-93 and 1998 before becoming mayor of Palatine in 2009. “When you speak of a venue entertainment that would potentially be something used 12 months a year – not just 10 games – hopefully the Bears play more than 10 – that would be great for the area. Not just Arlington Heights, but for all of us in the northern suburbs -Where is. “
Schwantz, whose day job is in sales for Von Sydow’s Moving & Storage, thinks the Bears organization’s announced interest in owning the 326-acre racetrack makes good business sense.
He acknowledged that the team could exercise bargaining power over the city of Chicago in hopes of securing a new or revised lease or improvements to Soldier Field. But Schwantz also said the scenery has changed since the organization’s previous attempts to move to the suburbs, including Elk Grove Village in the late 1990s and Arlington Park in the mid-1970s.
“It goes to the root of what the Bears are trying to do, which is long term stability, hosting football games and producing on Sundays,” he said.
Schwantz, who was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1994, praised that team’s colorful owner, Jerry Jones, for changing the way sports business is conducted and providing a blueprint for NFL stadiums profitability.
Since opening in 2009, AT&T Stadium – affectionately known as “Jerry World” – has not only been home to the Cowboys, but has also hosted the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball’s Final Four, the NBA All- Star Game and a host of college football matches, concerts and other events.
Schwantz doesn’t envision anything on the scale of the massive Arlington, Texas stadium being built in Arlington Heights. But to operate a Bears stadium in the suburbs, Schwantz said, it would have to have a retractable roof to allow year-round use and ancillary entertainment uses that could capture an audience for an entire day.
“The Bears run a football team. They are very good at what they do. Game days are a lot of fun at Soldier Field. But they are not in the entertainment business outside of what they would do in football. They I should partner with someone for the entertainment side, “Schwantz said.” In Chicago, if you don’t look at the boats or come up close, you walk around the property, see the colonnades, l ‘history and architecture that Soldier Field has to offer. But if you want to do anything beyond that, you have to leave the field. “
Schwantz said more than three-quarters of people he spoke to were in favor of the Bears moving to Arlington Heights. The biggest downside at some point, he said, is the expected traffic that would come with the Bears games and other big events at Arlington Park.
But he said any redevelopment would take years to materialize, and planning for the associated impact on local roads would involve discussions with the Illinois Department of Transportation, local municipalities and other stakeholders.
For now, Schwantz remains on the sidelines, having no formal discussion about the future of Arlington Park with his Arlington Heights counterpart.
“It’s their backyard. I wouldn’t be interested in Arlington Heights giving me any suggestions on things going on here at Palatine,” he said. “There is certainly a regional advantage for all of us – all of the northwestern and northern suburbs. But I’m confident their staff and elected officials will certainly get it right.”
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