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The Proposed Amazon HQ2 Soccer Stadium Would Host A USL Expansion Team

Chicago property developers Sterling Bay have bought the rights to a USL franchise with an eye toward a North Side stadium

Early last week I said to myself, “self, you can take the week off for Thanksgiving. There won’t be any major news to write about. It’ll be fine.”

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, I was consumed with hubris. And because of that, we at Hot Time let this honker of a story pass unremarked.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported that there is indeed a tenant lined up for the proposed soccer stadium at the abandoned Finkle Steel site near Bucktown, which would comprise part of the campus for Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2). That tenant. That tenant is not the Chicago Fire. Instead, the stadium will serve as the home of a new USL expansion franchise.

As written here previously, local developer firm Sterling Bay— who is heading up Chicago’s HQ2 bid— filed trademarks with the USPTO in October for two new professional soccer teams, the “Chicago River” and the “Chicago Wind.” Sterling Bay told the Tribune that they are indeed behind the trademarks and, should the plans for the stadium and HQ2 materialize, they are looking to begin play in 2020.

Sterling Bay exec Andy Gloor said he believes the Chicago sports market can support two major professional soccer teams.

“There are a lot of cities that have two soccer teams,” said Gloor. “New York and Los Angeles have two MLS teams. They can co-exist in a city the size of Chicago.”

The stadium itself will be designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who are known mostly for their skyscrapers, including the Willis (Sears) Tower and John Hancock Center in Chicago, One World Trade Center in New York, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It will indeed seat about 20,000 fans and feature a retractable roof, with an eye toward hosting other sporting events beside soccer (including college football basketball).

Gloor says the stadium as an integral part of the overall Amazon HQ2 bid. “The live-work-play aspect has to be there,” he said. “You just can’t build a suburban office complex there. Having the entertainment component is important.”

Gloor also indicated that he envisions the team as a genuine competitor with the Fire in the Chicago sports market. Although many USL teams partner with MLS franchises by taking players on loan, Gloor said that are no plans at present for the Chicago USL team to affiliate with an MLS club.

Sterling Bay execs said that they will partner with other investors in order to execute club operations, but did not name names.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering what the overall cost of the stadium and HQ2 move will mean for Chicagoans. It was reported this week that among the often-ludicrous concessions other cities were willing to make to lure Amazon, Chicago’s deal-sweeteners stood out. City officials had apparently offered to let Amazon pocket the income tax revenue from its own employees if they opened their new headquarters in Chicago. That means that Amazon employees would pay their regular income taxes, but instead of going to the government to pay for things like public schools and paved roads and clean drinking water, that money would go into Amazon’s coffers. The offer tempts Amazon to the tune of $1.32 billion. Whatever you may think of Amazon or its employees, that seems like a pretty bad precedent to set.

In any event, we’ll update you further as the story develops.