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Fire plan for $90 million NW Side facility is dead, alderperson says

The ambitious proposal would have yielded a training and practice center at Hanson Park, but Gilbert Villegas (36th) said the club could not reach terms with Chicago Public Schools, the property owner.

A rendering of the Chicago Fire’s proposed facility at Hanson Park.
Provided

The Chicago Fire soccer club has scuttled plans for a $90 million training and practice center on the Northwest Side, according to the alderperson closely involved in the project.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said Thursday the team has walked away from the plan because it could not reach agreement with Chicago Public Schools. CPS owns the Hanson Park site southeast of Fullerton and Central avenues, 32 acres that includes a prep sports stadium and three schools.

The Fire had promised benefits for school programs, including renovations to the stadium. But Villegas, relaying information from a staffer who has dealt with the issue directly, said CPS did not support the development.

“I just think personally CPS didn’t know what to ask for,” Villegas said. “I think there just wasn’t an aggressive effort by CPS to do a deal.”

There was no immediate comment from CPS or Fire officials.

The Fire, owned by Joe Mansueto, executive chairman of Morningstar, had proposed a “performance center” on the property that would include six soccer fields for team practices and youth sports. The club also wanted to put an inflatable dome over Hanson Stadium so it could host cold-weather events.

The team had sought to lease the land, which would have put the publicly owned property on the tax rolls. A source at the Fire had said it was seeking no public subsidies.

The Fire practices at the former site of its home games in Bridgeview, but Mansueto has expressed interest in a move to Chicago to get closer to more soccer fans. Regardless of where it practices, the Fire is playing home games at Soldier Field, where its lease, with renewal options, could go to 2030.

The Belmont Cragin project would have been the daily base for 220 team employees, the Fire said. Its plan included a three-story building for various functions, and the team insisted its activities would not interfere with schools on the property, including Prosser Career Academy.

Villegas said most people in the area liked the project, but many details had to be worked out. The alderperson was particularly impressed with promised improvements at Hanson Stadium, which he said needs significant work on its field and bleachers.