Chicago suburb’s bond rating cut to junk over stadium debt

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(Adds comment from mayor)
    CHICAGO, March 31 (Reuters) - The credit rating for
Bridgeview, Illinois, fell into the junk level on Friday after
S&P Global Ratings hit the Chicago suburb with a four-notch
downgrade to BB-minus.
    S&P cited debt pressures on Bridgeview, which issued $135
million of general obligation (GO) bonds in 2005 for a stadium
that it owns and manages.
   "The downgrade reflects our view that the village will
continue to face acute business, financial, and economic
uncertainties related to its debt burden, particularly the debt
issued for its Toyota Park stadium," S&P analyst Blake Yocom
said in a statement.
    S&P placed the junk rating on a watch list for a possible
further downgrade due to concerns over potentially reduced
market access and weakened liquidity for Bridgeview.
    Steve Landek, Bridgeview's mayor, said he believed the
downgrade was triggered by a plan the suburb was considering to
restructure $24.5 million of variable-rate bonds to a fixed-rate
mode with a 2047 maturity. He said Bridgeview would come up with
a better plan over the next 90 days.
     The credit rating agency said it expects Bridgeview, which
has used restructurings in the past to ease debt service
payments and minimize property tax hikes, to continue the
practice, possibly pushing bond maturities out to years beyond
the useful life of the stadium.
    It added that the "underperforming" stadium has left the
suburb with an "extremely high" GO debt burden that totals about
$256 million and "very weak" liquidity.
    With seating for as many as 28,000, Toyota Park, which
opened in 2006, hosts soccer games, concerts and other events in
the village of 17,000 located southwest of Chicago.

 (Reporting by Karen Pierog; editing by Lisa Shumaker)
 ((karen.pierog@thomsonreuters.com; +1-312-408-8647; Reuters
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