Chicago Fire fans will be back at Soldier Field this season. The club was cleared by the Chicago Mayor’s office to allow fans to attend in a limited capacity at all home games, beginning with the April 17 home opener against the New England Revolution.
The Fire can potentially allow up to 25 percent of Soldier Field’s capacity, or around 15,000 fans. But, the club is taking a phased approach, only selling socially distanced tickets in the 100 and 200 levels, at least at first. That’s around 7,000 fans, or around 11 percent of total capacity. If all goes well with the pandemic, the Fire can ramp up and open the top levels later in the season. The 25 percent figure is consistent with the State of Illinois’ “Restore Illinois” Phase 4 guidance.
“One of the most exciting parts about our city being able to safely reopen is regaining our ability to get back to Soldier Field to cheer on beloved teams such as Chicago Fire FC,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news release. “This announcement was made possible by the many months we have spent planning, strategizing and evaluating how to welcome fans back into the stands and we will continue to work in close partnership with the Chicago Fire FC team to prioritize fans’ health and mitigate risk.”
There are plenty of safety measures in place:
- Tailgating will not be allowed
- Concessions will be limited to pre-packaged items
- Fans are required to wear masks, except when they are eating or drinking at their seat
- Social distancing will be emphasized throughout the concourse and all public areas
- There will be staggered entry times, and designated entry gates for fans
- Fans will sit in pre-determined and socially-distanced seating pods in groups of one, two, four, or six (If you have a group of three or five, you will not have to buy the entire pod—you can call the ticketing department)
- The club will have hand sanitizer stations throughout the stadium, and “rigorous and frequent” cleaning processes throughout the facility.
Season ticket holders will receive an email from the club with more information on how to buy seats for the April 17 match. Season ticket, partial plan, and group ticket buyers will get pre-sale access to purchase before the general public.
For the players, this is a long time coming
Currently, Jonathan Bornstein is only player on the Fire roster who has played a “home” match at Soldier Field in front of fans, and that came during the 2007 Gold Cup when he was playing for the United States Men’s National Team.
In fact, almost three-quarters of current roster have never played a single home match in front of Fire fans, and the only ones who have did so at SeatGeek Stadium, not Soldier Field.
“It’s going to be different to play the home field with the fans,” striker Robert Berić told reporters earlier this month. “Probably we’ll have another extra energy and if I’m honest, I really want to meet them, to see the atmosphere and how it’s going to be and all that, so I cannot wait.”
Midfielder Álvaro Medrán said he tried to envision fans in the stands after he scored last season.
“It will be incredible,” Medrán said. “There really isn’t another word for it. A lot of times I had thought about the two goals I scored last year at Soldier Field, which were nice goals. I thought about what it would have been like if there had been fans there.”
The MLS schedule is out, so fans can start planning which matches to attend. Finally, things are starting to look a little less weird.