Chicago Fire, AEG, Village of Bridgeview celebrate historic day

CHICAGO - After announcing plans for the construction of a world-class stadium for soccer, concerts and special events earlier this year, the Chicago Fire, its parent company, AEG, and the Village of Bridgeview today held the ceremonial groundbreaking for Bridgeview's new $70 million, 20,000-seat sports and entertainment stadium. The venue will house the Major League Soccer team permanently in Chicago's Southland region starting in the Spring of 2006.

Click here to view the stadium renderings.

Upon its completion, the venue will be only the fourth major soccer-specific stadium in the United States. FC Dallas is developing its new stadium in Frisco, Texas and the grand opening for the venue is staged for Spring 2005. Last year in Carson, California, AEG completed The Home Depot Center, home to MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy, CD Chivas USA and all U.S. National Soccer Teams. The Columbus Crew Stadium was inaugurated in 1999 as the first soccer-specific stadium in the country.

"This groundbreaking symbolizes yet another breakthrough for the Chicago Fire, the Village of Bridgeview and the entire Southland," said Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek. "Like Major League Soccer players themselves, our residents are modest, hard-working, approachable people with big dreams. I thank the Chicago Fire for recognizing these attributes as strengths. My heartfelt thanks also goes to the taxpayers of Bridgeview, the Bridgeview Village Board and the Southland region for supporting this effort."

The new stadium will be located at 71st and Harlem on approximately 100 acres. The stadium, which will be funded by the Village and operated by AEG, will feature 20,000 seats but can be expanded to 30,000 at a later phase. Its concert seating will be 28,000. The Fire will be the stadium's primary tenant, and the site will house the team's offices and official training center. The stadium will be a multi-purpose facility, serving as a major concert venue and a resource for the rapidly growing youth soccer communities and the Southland area at large.

"Today's groundbreaking is truly a historic moment for the Village of Bridgeview, the Chicago Fire, Major League Soccer and AEG," said AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke. "Our commitment to create a world class stadium for soccer, concerts and other special events will not only bring outstanding sports and entertainment right here to Bridgeview, but will also bring tremendous economic investment, jobs, resources and new opportunity to this great community. We thank Mayor Landek for his support, leadership and vision and look forward to our partnership in the years to come."

In addition to the 20,000 seats (1,500 of which will be club seats), the world-class stadium will house 48 luxury suites, a soccer pub, food courts, retail displays, a press room, training rooms, four lockerrooms and meeting rooms.

Chicago-based Turner Construction Company and Rossetti will oversee the construction and architecture projects, respectively. The stadium is expected to create more than 700 construction jobs, and nearly 350 new jobs will be required for the operation of the facility once it opens. In addition, the activity brought by the stadium is expected to help inject more than 200 jobs in the local economy.

Additionally, ICON Venue Group, a division of AEG, will also play a role in overseeing the development and operation of the stadium.

"It is thrilling to see the vision, dream, concept and design begin to take tangible shape and become reality. The Village, AEG and the entire Southland have contributed to this great day," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "This stadium is being built as a result of the efforts of thousands of people in the soccer, music, government and business communities. This stadium will allow the Fire to retain the revenue it generates and control its schedule and its fan services."

The Fire today introduced its "2006 Waiting List" program, a sales initiative for soccer fans interested in purchasing some of the first seats at the new Bridgeview Stadium. For a $50 seat deposit, fans will be placed on a waiting list after current season ticket holders and have the opportunity to purchase full and partial ticket plans. Some added benefits of being placed on the Fire's "Waiting List" include a tour of the stadium before its grand opening, discounted merchandise and invitations to special events. For more information or to purchase the plan, please call 1-888-MLS-FIRE.

The new stadium will serve as a catalyst in the soccer-rich community of the Southland region. The area is home to more than 5.5 million people of Latino or European descent, many of whom have strong ties to soccer. The area also boasts more than 1.3 million households with children under the age of 18 located within a 20-mile radius of the proposed stadium.

The stadium site is easily accessible by car and public transportation and is served by two of Chicago's main expressways, I-294 (Tri-State) and I-55 (Stevenson). Nearby exits include I-294 at 95th Street and Harlem Avenue and I-55 at Harlem Avenue and 52nd Street. It is 12 miles southwest of downtown Chicago (approximately 23 minutes). Other major suburbs such as Naperville, Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove and Hammond (Indiana) are all within 45 minutes.

During the development process, the Fire will play its 2005 season at Soldier Field, its original home. The Fire played at Soldier Field from 1998 to 2001 and spent the 2002 and 2003 seasons at North Central College's Cardinal Stadium in Naperville due to renovations to the lakefront venue. The team returned to Soldier Field in October of 2003 and played there during the 2004 MLS campaign before record-breaking crowds.

Incorporated in 1947, the Village of Bridgeview offers a blend of residential, commercial and industrial development. With a population of about 17,000, the Cook County community is part of Chicagoland's budding housing, retail, cultural and entertainment markets. Fine and performing arts centers are located throughout the Chicago Southland. The region is home to many art galleries, theatre groups, and an internationally recognized sculpture park.

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, the London Arena, The Forum (as exclusive booking agent for sports and entertainment programming), HealthSouth Training Center and NextStage at Grand Prairie and Kodak Theaters (as operators); sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), the Manchester Monarchs (AHL), Reading Royals (ECHL), Chicago Fire, DC United, Los Angeles Galaxy, MetroStars and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), five hockey franchises operated in Europe and management of shares of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA). AEG LIVE is currently producing Celine Dion A New Day...Presented By Chrysler, a spectacular theatrical production starring Dion and an international cast of 60 dancers, musicians and artists and directed by Franco Dragone now appearing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

In addition, AEG has recently developed and opened The Home Depot Center, a $150 million national training "campus" designated as an "Official U.S. Olympic Training Site" by the United States Olympic Committee that includes major facilities for soccer, tennis, track & field, cycling, volleyball, basketball and other sports in southern California.

AEG is currently overseeing the development of L.A. Live, a proposed 4 million square foot development featuring a 7,000-seat state-of-the-art live theatre, a 1200-room convention "headquarters" hotel along with entertainment, restaurant, residential and office space all adjacent to STAPLES Center. The company was recently selected to fully develop the 28-acre Millennium Dome and adjacent property located in the eastern part of London along the Thames River and will create new arenas within the Millennium Dome and on a 50-acre site in the heart of Berlin.

The Chicago Fire was founded on October 8, 1997 as an MLS expansion team. In 2003 the Fire was crowned the MLS Supporters Shield Winner and Eastern Conference Champion and captured its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire won the MLS Cup in its inaugural season in 1998 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000 and 2003.

Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer features many top stars from the United States and around the world and is America's Division I men's outdoor professional soccer league. MLS consists of teams in 11 markets: CD Chivas USA, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MetroStars, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes. MLS will kick off its tenth season in April 2005. For more information about MLS, log on to the League's official Web site at www.MLSnet.com.

Turner Construction, which managed the highly acclaimed Soldier Field renovations, will handle the administration of the construction project and oversee all the trade contractors. Turner has been building projects in the Chicago area since 1926 and is a leader in the educational, healthcare, commercial, pharmaceutical and sports and entertainment construction sectors. Turner Chicago has played a major part in shaping skylines in and outside of Chicago, and is responsible for the construction of more than 100 buildings in Cook County, the collar counties and beyond.

Based in Michigan, Rossetti is the leading sports architecture firm in America with innovative sports venue designs such as the Palace at Auburn Hills (NBA), Corel Center (NHL), Ford Field (NFL), USTA Arthur Ashe Stadium and The Home Depot Center (MLS).

Click here to view the stadium renderings.


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