The Chicago Fire is poised for a return to the city after 13 years of playing in suburban Bridgeview, located about 15 miles southwest of the Loop. The Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise has reached an agreement with the Village of Bridgeview to break their 30-year lease at SeatGeek Stadium and could start playing at Soldier Field as early as 2020.
Although the deal to officially amend the lease still needs to be finalized, the team is expected to pay $60.5 million to the village, according to a report by the Desplaines Valley News. The Fire will provide $10 million in cash upfront and payoff the remainder of the balance over the next 15 years.
The team is also expected to pay the village $5 million to keep practicing at the Bridgeview stadium for the next five years. The move will not affect the Chicago Red Stars National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) franchise, which will continue to play there.
The Fire’s return to Chicago proper is good news for local soccer fans looking to enjoy the sport closer to home—especially after a plan to bring a United Soccer League (USL) expansion team to the massive Lincoln Yards development fell through.
The SeatGeek Stadium deal hasn’t been a great one for Bridgeview or its taxpayers. Although sold to residents as a beneficial economic driver for the area, the $100 million, 20,000-seat venue ended up burdening Bridgeview with a mountain of debt and forced the village to raise property taxes.
News of the Fire’s departure comes just days after retiring Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman hinted at a long-term proposal to construct a stadium for the Fire at Bronzeville’s vacant Michael Reese hospital site in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.
However, if the team ultimately does move to a field within 35 miles of Bridgeview, it will be required to provide the village “additional compensation,” according to the Desplaines Valley News report.