Home is where the Fire are, finally

it simply looks amazing and has an intangible feel of the passion to come, which will be present at more than just soccer games.

"This place is more than a world-class soccer stadium," said Fire president John Guppy. "With the stage and the club level, this building will be bringing people in 365 days a year. With kitchens and food preparation done on site, it will even be a great dining experience. Not only is this a world-class stadium, but with practice fields we will be able to support youth leagues, and as part of our vision, truly be the home of soccer."

The new Bridgeview Stadium certainly looked like a new home, filled with the voices and laughter of wives, girlfriends and children of the team and staff. Many voiced a feeling of relief to finally "move in."

Thursday was "a perfect day", said Sarachan. "Everything has come together so quickly, it really feels like our house. Not only is the team happy to be home, but so are the families. It is not easy living in and out of hotels and planes."

"It was a tough stretch being on the road for four months, including preseason," said Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez. "After that much time, it begins to weigh on you. Now we get a chance to flush our mind and body and relax a while."

The opening of Bridgeview is an extra special homecoming of sorts for Gutierrez, as this will be his first time playing for Fire fans since his offseason re-acquisition from the Kansas City Wizards.

"It was unbelievable when the trade happened," Gutierrez said. "I knew about the new stadium and that was a huge perk. I was with the team from the first day and I can't wait to make new memories with this team, the fans and in this stadium. It's a phenomenal feeling."

On Sunday afternoon, the Fire will play host to the New England Revolution in the first-ever event at the stadium. It isn't the official grand opening of the facility -- that will come June 25 when the Fire take on the New York Red Bulls.

"This Sunday is a private party, with only the most loyal of fans being able to attend," Guppy said. "We look forward to the official opening on June 25th, when we open the doors for all of Chicago and the entire world to see."

To add to the excitement of the new stadium, it was also announced that the Fire will be play host to Mexican powerhouse Club America on July 12, the first-ever international friendly at the new stadium.

Bridgeview will also play host to English Premier League champions Chelsea FC in the MLS All-Star Game, set for Aug. 5, as well as two already announced concert events.

But fans who don't have tickets for Sunday's game won't have to wait for the 25th. They can get their first look at the stadium on June 17 to watch the USA take on Italy in World Cup action on the big screen and in the club level on plasma televisions.

Guppy added the organization took serious steps to build a traditional approach and design to the new stadium. Along the way, they tweaked the design a bit "to utilize every space", the most notable of which might be the roof party/hospitality deck.

"We felt the roof was a cool space and could be made into a hospitality deck. It is akin to the feel of Wrigley Field, with fans watching the action from a rooftop," he said. "This will provide a unique experience for the fans."

On the roof or not, attending a soccer match or concert, fans will be ecstatic about the newest home of MLS and the Chicago Fire.

Former Fire president and general manager Peter Wilt, an instrumental driving force in having the stadium built, walked in through the players' tunnel and summed up the experience in a single sentence.

"I had tears in my eyes," Wilt said.

Many fans will have the same experience.

Jack Daniel Chavez is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


To report a comment, mouseover or touch the comment and then click/touch the flag icon (Flag).