The Fire are heading back to downtown Chicago and they will be under new management when they get there.
As was reported earlier this week, the Chicago Fire came to an agreement with the Chicago Park District board to seal a permanent move to Soldier Field in 2020. The team played their home games from 1997 until moving to Bridgeview after the 2005 season. They played in the western suburb of Naperville for the entire 2002 season and first part of 2003 while Soldier Field was being renovated.
The Fire averaged 17,238 fans in their last season downtown, more than all but one of their seasons in Bridgeview. They last played there in 2011, when a friendly against Manchester United drew a near capacity crowd. The 2017 MLS All Star Game against Real Madrid also drew a nearly sold out audience at Soldier Field.
The team will also be under new ownership next season. The club announced chairman and owner Andrew Hauptman sold his share of the team to local businessman Joe Mansueto, who will now serve as the club’s chairman and be the sole owner of the team.
“What the Fire has achieved has been transformational for the club and the city of Chicago,” Hauptman said in a statement. “We’ve significantly increased soccer’s presence and built an ecosystem that rivals any club across North America. I’m extremely proud of the positioning of the club at this historic juncture. I know that the next step of returning to Soldier Field will make Chicago proud and I look forward to cheering on Joe, the club and its supporters as they continue this legacy.”
As for Mansueto, he comes to the Fire after serving as the executive chairman of Morningstar, a Chicago based investment research firm. He served as the firm’s CEO until stepping down in 2016. He also owns also owns Inc and Fast Company magazines and is on the board of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“I joined Andrew as a partner because he developed a tremendous platform for continued soccer growth across Chicago and beyond,” Mansueto said in a team issued press release. “He and the entire organization have worked tirelessly to dramatically increase the profile of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, MLS and the game overall and have left a wonderful legacy for our city. The timing of this transaction couldn’t be better as we return the world’s game to the city I love. Andrew and his family will always be part of the Fire family that he cares so very much about.”