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Yes to proposed sports wagering facility

A rendering released by the Chicago Bears shows the view from the threshold of the proposed stadium of the Arlington Park entertainment district. The Bears released proposed development plans for the Arlington International Racecourse property in Arlington Heights on Sept. 6, 2022. (Hart Howerton/Chicago Bears)
The Arlington Heights Plan Commission agreed Wednesday night to recommend that the Village Board approve amending the zoning for the Arlington International Racecourse site to allow for a sports betting facility there — as long as it’s part of a professional sports stadium.
The move comes after the Chicago Bears football team in 2021 signed a $197.2 million purchase agreement for the racecourse, then last month publicly presented a redevelopment plan that would include a sports wagering facility as part of a $5 billion, multi-year project. The team proposed to build both an NFL stadium and an adjoining mixed-use commercial and residential district.
In July 2021, the Village Board approved an ordinance that established the Arlington International Race Course Overlay Zoning District, laying out basic requirements for any future development on the 326-acre site. It specified that anything that came to occupy the property had to be approved as part of a planned unit development.
While sports betting has been legal in Illinois since 2019, in Arlington Heights it was not one of the approved uses under the racecourse site zoning rules.
In the brief, sparsely attended Plan Commission meeting Wednesday night, commissioners agreed to recommend that the Village Board approve the zoning amendment to allow a sports wagering facility at the site, as part of a special use. The commissioners made the approval just eight minutes into the meeting.
Representatives for the Chicago Bears were in attendance.
Deputy Director of Planning and Community Development Bill Enright reminded the commissioners and a few attending members of the public that the ordinance would allow sports betting facilities, but not approve a particular proposed sports betting facility.
At its Oct. 12, 2022 meeting, the Arlington Heights Plan Commission considered and recommended that the village adopt an ordinance that would permit sports betting facilities at the Arlington International Racecourse site. (Caroline Kubzansky / Pioneer Press)
“It merely allows for a sports wagering facility to be considered as a Special Use, subject to review and approval of the Village Board,” Enright wrote in a memo to the commission.
Further, the ordinance stipulates that a sports betting facility must be part of an approved professional sports stadium.
Enright said the ordinance language was also updated to explain what the village means by “stadium.”
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“We believe it wasn’t necessary to define ‘stadium,’ but did clarify that this would be a ‘professional sports’ stadium,” he said. “Those two descriptor words were added in front of the word ‘stadium’ to classify or differentiate it from other types of spaces that could possibly be built.”
Representatives for the Chicago Bears football team listen at a meeting of the Arlington Heights Plan Commission Oct. 12, 2022 in Arlington Heights. The commission considered a rezoning ordinance that would allow the sports betting facility the team may propose as part of redevelopment of the Arlington International Racecourse site. (Caroline Kubzansky / Pioneer Press)
Along with the sports betting facility, the Bears have proposed a mixed-use commercial and residential district with parks, dining and entertainment amenities.
The team plans to seek public funding to help pay for parts of the proposed project, though team officials have committed to not requesting taxpayer dollars to pay for the stadium, itself.
The amendment the Plan Commission voted to recommend approval of Wednesday is expected to go before the Village Board for final consideration at a future meeting.



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