The Chicago Fire has taken another step closer to playing at Soldier Field after the Chicago Park District voted to continue negotiations over the Major League Soccer team’s use of the 61,500-seat stadium, starting with the 2020 MLS season.
The Fire is expected to sign a three-year lease to play at the home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears, with extension options for eight more years.
As part of the agreement, the MLS team will pay the Park District a use fee and reimbursement for operating expenses for home games. The Park District will also receive a facility fee for each attendee, as well as a share of net revenue from parking, concessions and merchandise sales.
In July, the Fire announced that it had signed an amended stadium lease for SeatGeek Stadium in suburban Bridgeview, Illinois, that will allow the team to play home games and conduct team operations “in other Chicagoland sports venues.”
As part of the deal, the Fire will pay the Village of Bridgeview $60.5m over the remainder of the agreement, which runs through 2036, with an upfront payment of $10m.
The team will also pay Bridgeview $5m to help refurbish and expand the existing soccer facilities next to SeatGeek Stadium, where the Fire will continue to train and operate youth development programs.
Additionally, the Fire will make a “significant contribution” towards the development of a multi-sport recreation and entertainment center in Bridgeview.
The Fire played home games at Soldier Field from its 1998 debut until the 2006 season before moving to the SeatGeek Stadium, formerly known as Toyota Park, where it has attracted league-low attendances.
It is believed the team’s move to Soldier Field will be temporary, with the plan to ultimately build a new soccer-specific stadium in downtown Chicago.