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Fire ‘committed’ to Soldier Field, looking to make it work at lakefront venue

Fire owner Joe Mansueto: The mindset is not to look around for other possible stadium locations but to make it work at Soldier Field ‘‘in the most robust way possible.’’

The Chicago Park District is close to finalizing an agreement with the Chicago Fire soccer club for the use of Soldier Field.
The Fire are in their second season back at Soldier Field.
Sun-Times photo

The Bears don’t seem married to playing at Soldier Field.

What about the Fire?

‘‘We’re committed to Soldier Field,’’ owner Joe Mansueto told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I’d like to see if we can make it work in a very robust way for our fans. Ultimately, we’ll listen to our fans and see how the experience is.’’

When discussing Soldier Field, which the Fire moved back to before last season, Mansueto called it an iconic venue with a central location that’s easy to get to, saying there are ‘‘a lot of pluses’’ to it. The mindset, Mansueto said, is not to look around for other possible stadium locations but to make it work at Soldier Field ‘‘in the most robust way possible.’’

‘‘Longer term, we’ll see how it goes,’’ Mansueto said. ‘‘As you know, in Chicago, there’s not a lot of places to put a stadium even if you did want to do it, so it’s not obvious what you would do to improve upon Soldier Field. I think we’ve got a very good experience.

‘‘Let’s kind of live with that for a bit and see how it feels. If we find that it is in some way lacking or we could make it better for the fans, I think we’re certainly open to that. But right now, that’s not the focus.’’

The initial portion of the lease signed in 2019 is three years, with two three-year extensions, then two one-year extensions.

For Mansueto, the criteria to judge whether Soldier Field is the right place would begin with the fan experience and whether supporters enjoy games there and can get there. Another is demand for Fire games and whether the stadium has too many seats or just the right amount. The economics of playing at Soldier Field are also a factor, and the Fire don’t have as much control over concession and parking prices some other teams do.

All told, Mansueto said the Fire are happy with Soldier Field and praised the Chicago Park District and ASM Global, which manages the venue.

‘‘It can be a bit of a hassle with the Bears’ schedule and trying to thread that needle and make everybody happy,’’ Mansueto said. ‘‘But other than that minor inconvenience, I think we’re pretty happy with Soldier Field to date.’’

The Bears don’t seem to be and have submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse land in Arlington Heights. Mansueto said the Fire are paying attention to those developments and acknowledged that if the Bears leave, it would relieve some scheduling headaches. Among them are a front-loaded home schedule, two games that have had to be rescheduled and a game Sept. 29 that must be moved to another venue.

But Mansueto isn’t hoping for the Bears to leave and said the Fire are happy with their fellow Soldier Field tenants.

‘‘I think if I had my choice, I would rather see the Bears stay,’’ Mansueto said. ‘‘I think it’s good for Chicago. I think it’s good for the venue, Soldier Field. There’d be some tiny positives if they left, but I’d rather see them stay and be our co-tenant at Soldier Field.’’