In some ways, he sounds like a typical Fire fan.
He has questions about the deployment of Bastian Schweinsteiger and wonders why goalkeeper David Ousted isn’t playing. He even has the club’s #cf97 hashtag on his Twitter profile, looks back fondly on the franchise’s previous triumphs and is frustrated by the team’s descent since those bygone trophy-winning days.
But Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) isn’t like all Fire supporters.
Unlike most other fans, Waguespack is an elected official who can get the ear of the mayor’s office. He said he has talked to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s staff about the stadium issue — if and when the team goes back to Chicago — as well as the development of Fire community and grassroots programs.
“We’re working hard to help them in the community, to build up the community support in the city again,” Waguespack said, “which will go a long way to creating new players, just being good community partners.”
Serving as the chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee, Waguespack eventually could play a role in future developments surrounding a permanent home for the Fire, though he said he’s not heavily involved in the planning portion of any potential shift from Bridgeview’s SeatGeek Stadium. He said he has been in contact with the team about building soccer fields in neighborhoods and knows the Fire are trying to partner with the city.
It goes without saying that Waguespack, who lives in Bucktown, favors a move back to Soldier Field, where the Fire played most of their home games from 1998 to 2006.
“I look back to the days when we played at Soldier Field, we used to bike down there and go there after work,” Waguespack said. “A lot of people did, so I think a lot of us are kind of looking forward to using public transportation again to go to Soldier Field or wherever the next spot’s going to be.”
The Fire’s return to the city can be a major moment for Chicago soccer. But, to Waguespack, there are some things the team must do to maximize the impact.
He wants them to reach out to the “different communities that were part of it” in the late ’90s. There must also be a commitment to the tradition of winning and a tribute to fans who have endured a decade of poor results.
“We’re working in each one of our schools to see what kind of buildup we can do with the Fire to get new fans into the realm of the Fire, so I think that’s going to help,” he said. “You’ve got a bigger population in the city to do that.
“It’s not that the management’s not interested in winning. But what steps are they going to take to just commit to the fans that they’re ready to sign the right kind of players and really focus on building around a young team that maybe will be competitive for five or 10 years?”