The Chicago Fire and Village of Bridgeview have agreed to an amended SeatGeek Stadium lease, paving the way for the club to move its home matches elsewhere in Chicagoland.
Under the original terms of its lease, the Fire was committed to SeatGeek Stadium through the 2036 season, but signs emerged earlier this year that club was looking to make an early exit. In May, the Bridgeview Village Board unanimously agreed to the terms of a buyout of the lease and the two sides announced Tuesday that they have finalized an agreement.
As part of that agreement, the Fire will pay $10 million upfront, plus another $50.5 million through 2036. Additionally, $5 million will be paid by the Fire to improve existing soccer facilities surrounding SeatGeek Stadium, while the club will make a contribution toward the construction of a multi-sport recreation and entertainment center in Bridgeview.
SeatGeek Stadium will still be used by the Fire for training, and Bridgeview will be the base of operation for the organization’s youth development programs.
“SeatGeek Stadium will now have year-round availability for consistent high-revenue generating entertainment events for years to come,” Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek said in a press statement. “Additionally, the expanded recreation venue will create even more growth opportunities for the Village. I’m extremely excited about the benefits this agreement will bring to our community and for the future of a sports team that all of us in Bridgeview and the region have come to love.”
“We are grateful to Mayor Landek and the residents of Bridgeview for our partnership,” Fire owner and chairman Andrew Hauptman said in a statement. “We’re glad we are able to strengthen our relationship while exposing even more fans to our Club and world-class soccer in a more centrally located Chicago stadium. Today marks the next chapter in the growth of the Club and the opportunity to play for more fans than ever in one of the world’s great cities.”
What remains to be seen is which venue, or venues, will host home matches for the Fire beginning in 2020. A return to Chicago’s Soldier Field has been reported as an option, but the club has not secured an agreement to play there. More from the Chicago Tribune:
The Fire reportedly have been seeking a return to Soldier Field, where they played their home matches from 1998 to 2001 and from 2003 through part of 2006. In 2002, the Fire played at North Central College in Naperville while Soldier Field was being renovated.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office declined to comment on whether the Fire are close to finalizing a deal to play at Soldier Field.
“Soldier Field is a world-class stadium that hosts an array of high-profile sporting events each year,” the office said in a statement. “While the Chicago Park District welcomes opportunities to bring new events to Soldier Field, there is currently no agreement with Chicago Fire.”
SeatGeek Stadium has been the Fire’s home since it opened as Toyota Park in 2006. However, the club has struggled to draw fans to the suburban facility, a trend that is continuing thus far with an average of 11,417 fans per home match, a figure that ranks last in the 24-team MLS.
Image courtesy Chicago Fire.
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