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Could Amazon’s Search For A New HQ Bring The Fire Back Into The City?

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Proposed HQ2 plans along the Chicago River include a stadium that could, COULD, be suitable for soccer

Via Chicago Tribune

I just want to state for the record that I am categorically against Amazon opening their second headquarters (HQ2) in Chicago. Rents would spike, as would the overall cost of living. Everyone from working class families to art school hipsters to homeless and other vulnerable individuals would be forced to the fringes of the city or out of it entirely, all to make an influx of software developers and sales executives more comfortable. Basically, everything that makes Seattle difficult to live in now would happen to Chicago. In almost every way that matters, the quality of life in this city would plummet for the people who are already here, all to make way for a new tax base that would’ve emerged organically within a decade anyway.

Having said that.

If you’re a Fire fan, there is reason to keep your eye on the HQ2 sweepstakes and maybe, maybe hope that Jeff Bezos gives Rahm Emmanuel the coveted Bachelorette rose. (Or however it works.)

That’s because newly released plans show that the proposed site for HQ2 in Chicago would include a stadium. A stadium that, judging by this one render, could be a good place to play some professional soccer.

Development firm Sterling Bay has been leading the charge in Chicago’s bid to bring Amazon here, with plans focused on transforming the former site of Finkl Steel along the North Branch of the Chicago River. A recent addition to the plans, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, includes “a world-class sports and entertainment stadium” situated on the west bank of the river in Bucktown.

So, uh. Yeah.

Obviously this is of interest to Fire fans (and possibly to the club itself). The deal between the club and the Village of Bridgeview seems to become less amicable for both parties every year. Bridgeview is on the hook for a mountain of debt, and the revenues projected from 11 years of professional soccer in the western suburb have yet to materialize. The lapse of the stadium naming deal with Toyota hasn’t helped; the Village has yet to find a new sponsor for the facility

Meanwhile, the Fire continue to struggle with attendance issues, as the location combined with ongoing traffic congestion and a lack of viable public transit options imposes a hard ceiling on attendance figures. While attendance was up somewhat this year overall, and improved on-pitch performances in 2017 led to more sell-outs compared to recent years. But the recent Knockout Round clash between the Fire and the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup Playoffs had an announced attendance of less than 12,000 people. And of course, when Major League Soccer chose Chicago as the host city for the 2017 MLS All-Star Game, the league specified that the game be played at Soldier Field rather than Toyota Park. It’s becoming increasingly clear that a winning team and an expanded Pub To Pitch initiative can only do so much to mitigate what is a hard, inescapable problem: Bridgeview is, for many fans, a bridge too far.

Sterling Bay is throwing around a figure of $10 billion for the entire Amazon campus, which would include, among other things, apartments and employee facilities and an extension of the 606. There’s no word on how much the proposed stadium would cost. There’s no word on whether those costs could include buying out the Fire’s contract with the Village of Bridgeview. For that matter, there’s no word on whether the Chicago Fire Soccer Club are anywhere near these discussions; for all we know the primary tenants of the new stadium could be DePaul University.

So, obviously, this is all purely speculative. But the season’s over now and we’re all still pretty bummed about how the 2017 campaign ended. So, we might as well have something new to talk about.