It’s unofficially official.
With a report earlier in the afternoon by the Des Plaines Valley News and confirmed later by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Fire are nearing an agreement with the Village of Bridgeview to break their lease at SeatGeek Stadium and move back to Soldier Field for the 2020 season.
The deal was moved forward this afternoon after the Village board approved a “Memo of Understanding” by a unanimous vote. The deal reportedly involves a $60.5 million buyout, with the Fire paying $10 million upfront and the balance being paid over the next 15 years. The team will also reportedly pay an additional $5 million per year to continue using the practice facilities outside the stadium.
In a statement to the press earlier, Fire president Nelson Rodriguez did not outright confirm the reports but did not exactly deny them either.
“We have been negotiating with Mayor (Steve) Landek and the Village of Bridgeview for some time on an amended stadium lease,” Rodriguez said, “but we have not reached a final agreement, and until we do, I’m not able to comment further.”
This news comes after a report from the Chicago Sun-Times earlier in the week saying that a new stadium for the Fire could be built at the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital. The land was purchased by the City of Chicago over a decade ago and was intended to serve as the future site of the Olympic Village in the event that Chicago was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Should this new stadium materialize, according to today’s reports, Bridgeview could be entitled to even more money from the club.
The Chicago Red Stars are reportedly planning to stay at SeatGeek Stadium. Bridgeview trustee James Cecott was quoted as saying, “[w]e’ve got the Red Stars. We’ll concentrate on them. They have a very talented team.”
Rodriguez said during his media Q&A earlier today said that there is no signed agreement between the village of Bridgeview and the Fire, and until that happens it’s not official.
But Cecott struck a different tone, struggling to contain his emotions surrounding the end of an era for the Village.
“It’s just a sad thing to see them go. They’ve been a part of Bridgeview for 13 years, but life goes on.”