The Chicago Fire, who for the past 13 years have played in a soccer-specific stadium in suburban Bridgeview that has been somewhat of a disaster for all concerned — attendance is meh, and the village of Bridgeview has taken a bath on the lease — have agreed to pay $65.5 million as part of a buyout so they can move to the Bears‘ Soldier Field starting next season, according to the Desplaines Valley News, “a household name in the southwest suburbs since 1913”:
The breakup, which had been hinted at for several years, became official Tuesday afternoon when the village board unanimously approved a Memo Of Understanding between the Fire and Bridgeview. The next step is formally amending the lease, which is expected.
Under the terms of the memo, the team would pay the village $60.5 million to escape its lease. That includes a $10 million payment upfront with the balance paid over the next 15 years, the village’s financial advisor Dan Denys told the board…
The Fire would also pay the village $5 million for the next five years for using the Bridgeview facilities for practice, Denys said.
Okay, that’s not really a $65 million buyout: The $5 million is rent on using the stadium as a practice field, and since $50.5 million of the actual buyout would be spread over 15 years, that’s a present value total of more like $45 million. (Which is a lot less than the previous buyout estimate of $125 million, though of course that was just an estimate.) Though the Fire owners have also reportedly promised to “make whole” SeatGeek if the move harms the value of the company’s naming rights deal on the Bridgeview stadium, which could add millions more to their cost. Plus we still don’t know what the Fire will pay the Chicago parks department (who if I’m reading the Bears’ lease right control Soldier Field on non-NFL days) to play in their new home.
All of which is interesting in that it shows how desperate the Fire are to get into a stadium that their fans can actually get to, but more to the point: An MLS team is choosing to move from a soccer-specific stadium to become a renter in somebody else’s NFL stadium did Don Garber just keel over and die or what? It’s been MLS gospel for years now that soccer-specific stadiums are a must, with the only exceptions allowed being for teams that at least play in a multisport stadium that they control; the Fire will apparently now be an exception to that rule. To every would-be expansion city being asked to build a new stadium for soccer when it already has another stadium that could be used — which is to say, all of them — this should set an example that it isn’t actually necessary; it may be nice for a team and its fans, but that doesn’t mean cities should be on the hook for paying for them because they’re told it’s the only possible way to have a successful team.