SBJ/October 27 - November 2, 2003/Facilities

Fire looks to Dallas Burn’s Frisco plans as stadium model

Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, is using the Dallas Burn complex under construction in Frisco, Texas, as a financial model in its quest to construct a 20,000- to 25,000-seat soccer facility, according to Fire general manager Peter Wilt.

The Fire recently narrowed its list of potential stadium sites to the blue-collar Bridgeport neighborhood near U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox, and Bridgeview, a working-class suburb about four miles south and eight miles west of its counterpart.

Wilt said last week that it is still possible the team could remain at renovated 61,500-seat Soldier Field, but the stadium's landlord, the Chicago Park District, would have to improve lease terms for the Fire. "That has yet to be determined," he said.

Under its contract, in effect through 2006, the Fire receives 50 percent of game-day revenue from concessions and parking and collects all proceeds from ticket sales. The team receives 100 percent of club seat and suite rentals for soccer.

AEG and the Fire have indicated a preference for building a $65 million home for soccer and concerts funded through a private-public partnership in which the team would control all revenue. The financing split hasn't been announced, but Wilt noted, "We're using the Frisco stadium model as an example, where $10 million was private, $55 million public."

In north suburban Dallas, the city of Frisco and Collin County each allocated $20 million and the Frisco Independent School District committed $15 million to build publicly owned Frisco Stadium. Hunt Sports Group, owner of the Burn, provided $10 million in private money. The complex, opening in 2005, features a 20,000-seat stadium to be shared with high school football and 17 tournament-grade fields for youth and high school soccer.

Under the Frisco agreement, the Burn will pay the city $100,000 in annual rent for 20 years. The team assumes the risk on operating and maintenance expenses and retains all revenue generated by the facility, specifically concessions, parking, rental fees and sponsorships including naming rights.

In Chicago, the 10-acre Bridgeport site is not big enough to accommodate all the elements Frisco offers, but Wilt said the Fire could share existing White Sox parking lots.

That's a big plus, because building parking lots is "always the challenge," according to John Wagner, president of Hunt Sports Group. "They can save a lot of dollars. Depending on the cost per stall, you could spend $800 to $1,500 per car with 125 cars per acre. For sports facilities, concrete surfaces are very, very expensive."

The 60-acre Bridgeview site contains a strip mall on private property that suburban officials would acquire for the stadium and could be the best option. Wilt said there is enough room to build additional fields for team training and youth soccer.

Bridgeview is "a stone's throw from the Chicago city limits" and targets the team's primary fan base, he noted.

"It has a high Polish population," he said, "and is near Cicero and Berwyn, two suburbs with a combined population among the largest Mexican communities in the nation."

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Related Topics:

AEG, Chicago Fire, FC Dallas, Soccer

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