Fire’s goal: make them­selves at home

Team hopes to play full season at sol­dier field; will work with bears if con­flicts arise

Chicago Sun-Times - - FIRE BEAT - BY BRIAN SANDALOW @bri­ansan­dalow

The Fire are play­ing their next three home games at Sol­dier Field. As for the en­su­ing phases of the season’s restart, club pres­i­dent Nel­son Ro­driguez told the

Sun-Times that the Fire want to stay on the lake­front, even with the Vil­lage of Bridgeview of­fer­ing SeatGeek Sta­dium, if nec­es­sary.

“We were hop­ing to play deep into the fall and the win­ter and the play­offs any­way, so the Bears would’ve been in town,” Ro­driguez said.

The Bears are the sta­dium’s pri­mary ten­ant and have a five-day sched­ul­ing win­dow, while the Fire can host games one day af­ter Bears games. Be­cause the Bears aren’t sched­uled to play at home un­til Sept. 20, there are larger gaps for the Fire in the first phase.

Mov­ing for­ward, the Bears are sched­uled for home games on Oct. 4, Oct. 8 and Nov. 1 be­fore the end of the Fire’s reg­u­lar season. One ob­sta­cle, Ro­driguez noted, could be if the NFL has to ad­just its sched­ule.

But Ro­driguez said com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the Fire, the Bears and sta­dium man­age­ment com­pany ASM Global has been strong and open, lead­ing to will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“If con­flicts arise, we’ll get through them to the sat­is­fac­tion of ev­ery­body,” Ro­driguez said. “Our plans are to re­main and play at Sol­dier Field.”

Tick­ets

Ev­ery ticket holder was of­fered a re­fund for 2020 along with the op­por­tu­nity to roll over their money to 2021. Ro­driguez said 90 per­cent of the Fire’s ticket buy­ers have kept their tick­ets for 2021, and of full-season ticket hold­ers, the rate rises to 94 per­cent.

“What that’s told us is, I’d like to think we did a good job in speak­ing with our fan base, and it con­tin­ues, through­out the pan­demic,” Ro­driguez said. “We’ll con­tinue to speak with them on a re­la­tion­ship ba­sis. I also think it speaks to the ex­cite­ment that our fans have to­wards the cur­rent team, to­wards the moves that we’ve made as an or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Ro­driguez said the Fire set a club record for full-season tick­ets, and the team was on track for sev­eral other season-long marks.

“Ev­ery­thing was very pos­i­tive lead­ing into the season,” Ro­driguez said. “It’s re­mained so.”

In the of­fice

The Fire re­opened their down­town of­fice July 7 on a vol­un­tary ba­sis, lim­it­ing at­ten­dance to 25 per­cent of staff. Af­ter about a month, the team scaled back to twice a week, also on a vol­un­tary ba­sis.

De­spite the re­mote work, Ro­driguez said the Fire have bro­ken down “si­los” in their of­fice. Us­ing a dig­i­tal prod­uct called Ran­domCof­fee, ev­ery Mon­day, staffers are emailed a ran­dom fel­low em­ployee with whom to share a vir­tual cof­fee.

The team also cre­ated a plat­form for ev­ery staffer to pro­vide five ideas to im­prove the fran­chise. Af­ter around 550 unique ideas were gen­er­ated, the Fire took the top 15 and cre­ated a work­ing group, which in­cluded peo­ple from all parts of the club, to build a busi­ness plan for each idea. The 15 plans were brought to team lead­er­ship, and three are be­ing pur­sued now.

“There’s a real gen­uine sense of be­long­ing among the staff,” Ro­driguez said. ✶

ASHLEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Chicago Park Dis­trict CEO Michael Kelly and Mayor Lori Light­foot lis­ten at a news con­fer­ence in Oc­to­ber as Fire owner Joe Man­sueto an­nounces his team will play at Sol­dier Field.

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