Park District OKs lease negotiations with Chicago Fire

Soldier Field could run for 11 years, but financial terms haven’t been settled.

SHARE Park District OKs lease negotiations with Chicago Fire
Soldier Field before the start of the Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. More than half of Chicagoans want the Bears to stay at Soldier Field instead of moving to Arlington Heights, a new poll found — but roughly the same percentage say they don’t want their tax dollars used to upgrade the lakefront stadium.

The Chicago Park District, which owns Soldier Field, will try to negotiate a lease with the Chicago Fire to allow the soccer team to play its home games at the lakefront stadium.

John J. Kim/Sun-Times-file

Commissioners of the Chicago Park District Wednesday authorized staff to negotiate a lease for the Chicago Fire to play at Soldier Field, but terms have yet to be decided.

The only specific provision given to the board was the proposed life of the lease — three years with options for eight more — starting with the 2020 season.

The Fire will pay the agency, which owns Soldier Field, “a user fee and operating expenses for home games,” said Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons. In addition, the district “will receive a facility fee for each attendee, as well as a share of revenue from parking, concessions and merchandise sales.”

A source said that among the points still being worked out is how the grass field can be shared with the Chicago Bears, as part of the Major League Soccer season overlaps with football.

In a statement, the Fire said, “Given today’s positive vote, we’re excited to continue working with the Chicago Park District to finalize an agreement. The Club will provide additional updates as they occur.”

The Fire have played in Bridgeview since 2006 at SeatGeek Stadium, the former Toyota Park. Prior to that, the team had played at multiple home venues, including Soldier Field.

In July, the Fire reached an agreement with Bridgeview to break the stadium lease. The original 30-year deal was to expire in 2036.

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.

Contributing: Brian Sandalow

SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, which was known as Toyota Park when it opened in 2006.

The Chicago Fire in July reached an agreement with Bridgeview to break the team’s lease at SeatGeek Stadium; the original 30-year deal was to expire in 2036.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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