Bridgeview stadium fail just one example of local governments' struggle, Wirepoints founder says
For what it is worth, Mark Glennon says the people of Bridgeview can be assured they are not alone.
“Many local municipalities have fallen in the same trap in that they are taking big gambles all across the state as governments struggle to meet pension debt and obligation,” Glennon, founder of the government watchdog website Wirepoints, told South Cook News. “You’re seeing the same thing all over Illinois.”
In the case of Bridgeview, village board members unanimously voted this week to enter into a deal with the Chicago Fire ending their 30-year lease for SeatGeek Stadium. With the Major League Soccer team now poised to return to Soldier Field for their home games, Crain’s Chicago Business reports that team executives have agreed to pay the village a shade over $60 million to end a lease agreement that had more than 17 years remaining on it.
“I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the situation that taxpayers in Bridgeview find themselves stuck in,” Glennon added. “Property taxes there are already very high and the situation isn’t getting any better. Leaders there allowed investment bankers to talk them into building a stadium and issuing bonds to pay for them. They made a mistake about the viability of the stadium.”
From the very start, Glennon predicted as much, comparing the structure of the deal when it was announced to “selling your future income to the bank so they’ll give you another loan at an acceptable rate.”
As the team has struggled to draw at the 20,000 seat stadium, tensions between team executives and local government officials have escalated, with promises of further development around the arena going undelivered and taxpayers being left with more of the bill.
“Unfortunately, I think this is a consolidated problem that will continue to get worse across Illinois,” Glennon said. “It’s like a slow-motion train wreck with further loss of our tax base and communities having to sacrifice more services because of debt obligation to come.”
As for the new Bridgeview deal, Mayor Steven Landek said he thought it was fair and in the best interest of both sides.
"We like to see the Fire unleash its potential out in the whole market,” he told the Des Plaines Valley News. “I think it’s good for the Fire. I think it’s good for Bridgeview. Most of all, it relieves any of our angst over the stadium debt.”