Is the Soldier Field grass green enough for Fire?

The playing surface has become a pressing issue for the Fire, who moved Sunday’s game to Bridgeview due to expected field conditions.

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Due to expected field conditions, the Fire moved Sunday’s game from Soldier Field to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

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Fire president Ishwara Glassman Chrein understands the need to keep Soldier Field busy to generate needed revenue for important programs. Events such as Bears games and major concerts bring in big money for the city and can help fund municipal initiatives.

Meanwhile, she said the Fire have spent a lot of time talking to the city and Soldier Field management about the grass and other issues such as scheduling, financials and general fan-experience issues. Due to the expected field conditions caused by Soldier Field’s hectic schedule, Sunday’s game against New York City FC switched to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

“I’d like to see greater cooperation based on the fact that this is our home and we play 17 games there,” Glassman Chrein told the Sun-Times. “It can only be sustainable when we can have dates where players can play safely on the field 17 times a year, hopefully plus playoffs.”

Those issues take on more urgency because the Fire are at the end of the first three-year period of the 11-year lease they signed to play at Soldier Field. Glassman Chrein said “she wouldn’t be doing [her] job” on behalf of the franchise and its fans if she wasn’t looking at different options, adding the Fire are monitoring the Bears’ stadium situation and that the soccer franchise will “make the right decision for our club at the right time.”

That said, Glassman Chrein said there’s “not much debate” the team will be back at Soldier Field next year.

“I would broadly say that in the long run, all of these options need to be considered,” Glassman Chrein said.

Of course, questions about the playing surface were raised when the Fire moved back to Soldier Field. As long as the Fire and Bears call the stadium home and it maintains a natural-grass surface, concerns about the grass’ fitness for soccer during football season will linger.

In a statement, Soldier Field management said it “works with all tenants to comply with existing regulations” and that a “long-planned full resodding of the field is scheduled for early September using a new Bermuda grass system requested by the Bears” will be completed by their Sept. 11 home opener against the 49ers.

While the state of the field irked the Bears when they played the Chiefs in a preseason game, the surface has been a persistent autumn problem for soccer. From a marketing standpoint, football markings remind anybody tuning in that the Fire are living in somebody else’s home.

“I think it makes it harder to build an identity as a soccer team when we’re playing on a field that clearly doesn’t look like it was built for us,” said Glassman Chrein, who was not with the Fire when they moved back to the city. “There’s no doubt that that makes it difficult.”

More importantly, divots and blemishes not only ruin the game by creating unpredictable passes but put player safety in jeopardy, which were driving forces for MLS and the Fire to shift Sunday’s match.

The Fire are trying to make the best of the circumstances. Instead of waiting to see how the field would respond, the front-office brass and the league made the choice early to give fans as much warning as possible. The team is bringing back its “Pub To Pitch” program to ferry supporters to Bridgeview.

But, obviously, the state of affairs isn’t optimal.

“It’s a really difficult situation,” Glassman Chrein said. “We really want our players to be safe. We want it to very much look like a top-notch facility for soccer, but the reality is that Soldier Field is a very busy building.”

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