Fire set to welcome fans at Soldier Field

To start, around 7,000 seats will be available for the April 17 home opener against New England.

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For the first time since moving back, the Fire will welcome fans to Soldier Field.

Brian Sandalow | For the Sun-Times

The Fire finally will welcome fans to Soldier Field.

It was announced Wednesday that Fire games will have spectators this year, beginning with the April 17 opener against the New England Revolution. Approximately 7,000 seats will be available. The 100 and 200 levels will be open that evening, fans will be required to wear masks or facial coverings, and there will be spaced seating pods to ensure social distancing. Other precautions include no tailgating and fully digital ticketing.

Season-ticket holders can purchase seats April 5, other 2021 ticket holders can buy them April 6, and they will be available to the public on April 7.

“Today is an exciting day for the club,” Fire owner and chairman Joe Mansueto said in a news release.

The Fire are taking a phased approach and will have the ability as the season progresses to increase attendance to 25% of Soldier Field’s 61,500 capacity, which is 15,375 fans.

“This announcement was made possible by the many months we have spent planning, strategizing and evaluating how to welcome fans back into the stands and we will continue to work in close partnership with the Chicago Fire FC team to prioritize fans’ health and mitigate risk,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news release.

With vaccines becoming more available and the Cubs and White Sox getting clearance to admit fans, the announcement isn’t surprising. But that doesn’t diminish its value to the Fire.

After spending 2020 in an empty Soldier Field, the Fire will play in front of some home fans. No, the atmosphere won’t be what they envisioned, and a few thousand tickets won’t make up for the lost revenue or test if the team is gaining attention, but it’s something.

“I know me personally, I’m very, very excited to play in front of fans regardless of the amount,” goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth said earlier this month, “and hopefully as the season goes on, we can get more and more fans in there safely.”

NOTE: MLS released the full schedule and its playoff format, which will see seven teams from each conference qualify for the postseason. After their Aug. 14 match at home against the Crew, the Fire play only four of their last 15 in Chicago. The Fire’s longest homestand is a four-game run from June 23-July 7. The regular season ends Nov. 7.

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