The Chicago Fire will be able to host matches and conduct team operations at Chicago-area facilities other than longtime home SeatGeek Stadium under an amended lease with the village of Bridgeview, it was announced Tuesday.
The deal, which comes months after city officials approved a memorandum of understanding to amend the lease, opens the door for the Fire to finally make a move to the city after years of playing exclusively in the suburbs.
There has been speculation that the Fire will play in Soldier Field, perhaps until it gets a permanent home elsewhere in the city. But the Chicago Park District, which owns Soldier Field, said in a statement that it has no deal with the team.
“Soldier Field is a world-class stadium that hosts an array of high profile sporting events each year. While the Chicago Park District welcomes opportunities to bring new events to Soldier Field, there is currently no agreement with Chicago Fire,” said the statement from Michele Lemons, the district’s communications director.
Fire owner Andrew Hauptman didn’t say exactly where the team will move. “We’re glad we are able to strengthenour relationship while exposing even more fans to our Club and world-class soccer in a more centrally located Chicago stadium,” he said in a statement. “Today marks the next chapter in the growth of the Club and the opportunity to play for more fans than ever in one of the world’s great cities.”
In response to questions about the Fire, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s press office sent the same statement as the Park District. Officials did not answer follow-up questions, such as whether the Park District or city are actively discussing any agreement with the Fire.
Some have suggested that part of the former Michael Reese Hospital property at 29th Street and the lakefront could accommodate a soccer stadium. The property is city-owned. “We haven’t explored that idea at this point,” said Elle Ramel, director of development for Farpoint Development, the firm the city named two years ago to lead the planning and construction effort.
Ramel said her understanding was that the Fire would play at Soldier Field.
Work on the Reese property has not begun and awaits a zoning agreement with the city. Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested the site could be a home for technology companies and for a trucking center to handle traffic for McCormick Place.
A proposal to put a soccer stadium in the Lincoln Yards development site on the North Side was scuttled after residents complained about it.
SeatGeek Stadium, originally known as Toyota Park, has been the home of the Fire since it opened in 2006. (Prior to that, there had been multiple home venues, including Soldier Field.) The club had a 30-year lease with the village set to expire in 2036 prior to the new agreement.
Under the amended lease, the Fire will pay $60.5 million to the village over the next 17 years, including $10 million upfront. They’ll also contribute $5 million toward the renovation and expansion of soccer facilities surrounding SeatGeek Stadium.