Fire Focused On Chicago Move After Breaking Bridgeview Lease
Fire President & GM Nelson Rodriguez "made it clear the club is focusing its efforts on Chicago" after negotiating with Bridgeview, Ill., to break its lease early at SeatGeek Stadium, according to Orrin Schwarz of the Chicago DAILY HERALD. The Fire are "expected to move back to Soldier Field, the team's original home stadium, though the agreement with Bridgeview allows the Fire the option to play some games at SeatGeek Stadium again." The Fire also are expected to build a soccer-specific stadium near downtown Chicago, though Rodriguez said that it is "not an immediate priority." Schwarz notes Rodriguez "made it clear he isn't worried about a club that averages a league-low 11,572 fans a game playing in a stadium that seats 61,500." He said, "It's not about the size of the venue. I do think the location of the venue matters. It's been challenging to get here for many fans. And Soldier Field is well-known, easier to get to. ... It clears out pretty easily and pretty quickly" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 7/18).
MORE THAN A MOVE: Rodriguez acknowledged that the move "will not instantly fix the franchise." He said, "We do not believe that moving to the city is a salve for all of our issues. We know that there's a lot of other work that we need to do." In Chicago, Brian Sandalow notes as of yesterday, the Fire were last in MLS in average attendance, and Crew-Fire last night drew an announced crowd of 7,482 in Bridgeview. After a "decade of mediocre soccer and issues with the club, fans are frustrated." Soldier Field "might be in a better location and introduce the Fire to new people, but it won't automatically create supporters and inspire old ones to return." Rodriguez: "We have to have a product that resonates with the fans. That starts with winning" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/18).