Mayor Lori Lightfoot Aims to Make Soldier Field Year Round Destination

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On the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, and the 148th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Chicago Fire, the club held a media and fan event at Soldier Field. The club will call the building home again next season, much like they did in 1998-2001 and 2003-2005.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was in attendance yesterday, and she’s excited for what lies ahead for both the team and the lakefront venue.

“I think we’re going to see huge crowds, to really embrace this team when they move back home,” Lightfoot told reporters. “They started here, and now they’re back and i’m really excited.

“I think it’ll have a huge impact economically.”

“It’s no secret that I’m a huge sports fan. I’d like to see Soldier Field become a year round destination. Having this stadium, which is so iconic, being the site of so many great memories for sporting and entertainment events, being in the heart of what’s happening in Chicago really makes a lot of sense to me.”

“We got to work to make that happen.”

The event, staged just an hour or so after the Fire’s franchise player Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement and began his journey in life after soccer, provided an opportunity for fans and media to get updates on the future of the club. 

We also learned more about the logistics of the Soldier Field move.

“I anticipate 25,000 all the way up to sellouts pretty fast. I think it’s going to be pretty turnkey,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly.

“We’re not going into this thinking we’re closing the top deck, we’re going in thinking we’re going to sell out.”

Obviously, Chicago is a Bears town first and foremost. After that, the Cubs aren’t far behind, but all the other teams have to consistently perform well in order to remain relevant in the Chicago sporting landscape. It goes without saying that the Bears are Soldier Field’s primary tenant, and the Fire will do whatever they can to help brand associate with them.

Perhaps they’ll take their secondary color of navy blue (their primary being red) and feature it more prominently now? After all, navy is the Bears’ primary hue, with orange second.

Mayor Lightfoot said she’ll be there for Fire opening day, March 21 vs Atlanta United. The former President of the Chicago Police Board and assistant U.S. Attorney spoke to the globalism, multiculturalism and diversity of the beautiful game, and how it appeals to Chicagoans.

“There are 140 different languages spoken here, one of the hose universal threads that goes through these neighborhoods is soccer,” said Lightfoot, whose father was a steel worker.

“Soccer is really a universal sports that brings people together from different neighborhoods, different countries.”

Several games, spread across recent years, have shown that international soccer does draw very well at Soldier Field. You had the Gold Cup Final this July, where a nearly all Mexico supporting crowd saw their side beat the United States to hoist a trophy.

Then there was English treble winners Manchester City vs. Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup last summer.

2017 brought the MLS All Star Game, in which the opponent was the Reyes Del Europa, Real Madrid. In 2016, the venue saw a USWNT pre-Summer Olympics warm-up and another ICC clash, German giants Bayern Munich vs. once great club AC Milan.

In 2015, it was the European capital of trophies Manchester United (who played the Fire at Soldier Field in 2011) vs. Ligue 1 ruling oligarchs Paris Saint-Germain. In 2014 saw the lakefront hosted six time European champion Liverpool vs Greek side Olympiacos. All of these matches drew pretty well, verifying the point Lori Lightfoot made- international soccer does very well in the city of Chicago.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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