Fire To Break SeatGeek Stadium Lease, Could Move To Soldier Field
The Fire after this season "will no longer play" home games in SeatGeek Stadium, and the club will pay the village of Bridgeview, Ill., $60.5M to "escape its lease," according to Steve Metsch of the DESPLAINES VALLEY NEWS. Sources said that the team in '20 is "expected to play home games in Soldier Field." After playing in Bridgeview since '06, the Fire "will likely complete" the '19 season at SeatGeek Stadium. The exit "became official" Tuesday afternoon when the village board "unanimously approved a Memo Of Understanding between the Fire and Bridgeview." The next step is "formally amending the lease." Bridgeview financial advisor Dan Denys said that the $60.5M cost to end the lease includes a $10M payment upfront, with the "balance paid over the next 15 years." Denys added that the Fire would pay the village $5M for the "next five years of using the Bridgeview facilities for practice," and if there is a "new soccer specific facility built within 35 miles of Bridgeview 'there would be additional compensation' from the Fire." Officials said that there are "no plans" for the NWSL Chicago Red Stars to leave Bridgeview (DESPLAINESVALLEYNEWS.com, 5/8).
WHERE TO NEXT? In Chicago, Brian Sandalow notes the vacant Michael Reese Hospital site "has surfaced" as a possible "permanent home" for the Fire. The site was "purchased for a potential Olympic Village for Games that never came to Chicago," and the land has been a "financial burden for the city." Outgoing Chicago Planning & Development Commissioner David Reifman has previously said that there is a "'long-term idea' to build a soccer stadium" on the vacant plot that "could be a home for the team, if and when the Fire return to Chicago" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/9). In Chicago, Orrin Schwarz wrote "nobody wants" the Fire to have a "long-term stay in 61,500-seat Soldier Field." That would "set the franchise back even further." A move back to Soldier Field "won't help the Fire draw suburban fans to games," and even "some city fans will find it difficult" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 5/9).