The Chicago Fire are one step closer to spending the 2020 season playing at Soldier Field in the Windy City's downtown area.
The latest development arrives after a Chicago Park District board vote on Wednesday to keep negotiating and enter into a permit and operating agreement for use of the 61,500-seat stadium.
Per Park District chief administrative officer Juliet Azimi, as noted in the Chicago Tribune, the Fire would enter a three-year agreement with options for eight more years. The Fire would pay the Park District a use fee and for operating expenses on game days and the Park District also would receive a facility fee for each attendee as well as a share of net revenue from parking, concessions and merchandise sales.
“Given [Wednesday's] positive vote, we’re excited to continue working with the Chicago Park District to finalize an agreement,” the Fire said in a statement.
In July, team president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said that a while move to Soldier Field wouldn’t heal all issues for the Fire, its location presented some clear advantages for the club and its fans.
“I do think the location of the venue matters, and it’s been challenging to get [to SeatGeek Stadium] for many fans,” he said at the time, adding, “we do not believe that moving to the city is a salve for all our issues. We have to do a better job of connecting to people where they live.”
Also in July, the Fire agreed on an amended stadium lease in Bridgeview, allowing the club to play games outside of SeatGeek Stadium. As part of the deal, the Fire are making "a significant contribution" toward the development of a multi-sport recreation and entertainment center in Bridgeview.
“We are grateful to Mayor Landek and the residents of Bridgeview for our partnership,” Fire owner and chairman Andrew Hauptman said in a previous 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."
As an early MLS expansion team, Chicago used Soldier Field from 1998 until 2001 and then from 2003-05 before moving to Bridgeview in 2006.