Fire’s goal: make themselves at home
Team hopes to play full season at soldier field; will work with bears if conflicts arise
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.”
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. ✶
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.