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Chicago Fire, Park District near deal on Soldier Field lease, sources say

The deal could be voted on at a board meeting on Wednesday.

The Chicago Park District is close to finalizing an agreement with the Chicago Fire soccer club for the use of Soldier Field.
The Chicago Park District is close to finalizing an agreement with the Chicago Fire soccer club for the use of Soldier Field, according to the Park District’s board president.
Sun-Times photo

The Chicago Park District is close to finalizing an agreement with the Chicago Fire soccer club for the use of Soldier Field, Avis LaVelle, president of the Park District’s board, said Monday.

LaVelle said she was unaware of the deal’s terms, which she said were still being negotiated Friday.

However, another source at the agency said the agreement would cover 10 years. The source said financial terms are still under discussion, but could include annual rent of $500,000 to $1 million, depending on whether attendance benchmarks are reached.

The item appears on the agenda for Wednesday’s Park District board meeting as “Soldier Field use agreement.” LaVelle said it would be pulled from the agenda if there is no deal with the Fire by Wednesday.

SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, which was known as Toyota Park when it opened in 2006.
The Chicago Fire soccer team plays at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, which was known as Toyota Park when it opened in 2006.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Asked about the board’s likely reaction to the lease, LaVelle said, “The terms are still under discussion.” The agenda item, she said, was a “placeholder” in case the matter is ready for the board.

The source said the district and the team would divide parking and concession revenue based on certain income thresholds.

Team officials declined to comment.

Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons provided the following statement Monday night: “The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners will vote on Wednesday to authorize the district to negotiate and enter into an agreement with the Chicago Fire for the use of Soldier Field commencing with its 2020 MLS season. No executed terms or contract currently exist between the Park District and Chicago Fire to play its games at Soldier Field during the 2020 season.”

The Fire have played in Bridgeview since 2006 at SeatGreek Stadium, the former Toyota Park. Prior to that, there had been 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.

Snagging the Fire for Soldier Field was a goal of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who ran out of time to achieve it. His administration pushed Soldier Field as a temporary solution and wanted to see a permanent soccer stadium built on the former site of Michael Reese Hospital at the lakefront north of 31st Street.

Since then, the Reese site has been been part of the city’s rejected attempt to get an Amazon headquarters and been offered as a casino site. The city acquired the property under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who saw it as a centerpiece of the failed bid for the 2016 Olympics.

The $91 million purchase price became a drain on the city. In 2017, Emanuel struck a deal to eventually unload the site to private developers for $144.45 million over 10 years.

Contributing: Brian Sandalow