CHICAGO -- The first step in the Fire's bid to return to Chicago reportedly has been taken.
The Fire reportedly have agreed to pay the village of Bridgeview $60.5 million to break their lease at SeatGeek Stadium with the intent of returning to Soldier Field next season. The news was first reported Wednesday by Steve Metsch of the Desplaines Valley News.
"We have been negotiating with Mayor (Steve) Landek and the Village of Bridgeview for some time on an amended stadium lease," Fire President and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in a statement, "but we have not reached a final agreement, and until we do, I'm not able to comment further."
The village board on Tuesday unanimously approved a "Memo of Understanding" between the team and village, according to the report. Under the terms, the Fire reportedly will pay the village $10 million upfront with the remaining balance paid over the next 15 years. The Fire also will pay $5 million for the next five years to use the practice facilities outside the stadium, Metsch reported.
The lease still would need to be formally amended, according to the report.
Landek, the mayor of Bridgeview, was quoted as saying the agreement was "a fair deal for everybody."
"Most of all, it relieves any of our angst over the stadium debt," he said.
Stadium-related debt has been a major talking point for the southwest suburban village. A 2012 Tribune investigation found the 20,000-seat stadium saddled the village with millions in debt, while Bloomberg last year reported Bridgeview has about $260 million in debt, largely tied to the stadium.
The Fire in 2005 signed a lease to play at the stadium formerly known as Toyota Park through the 2036 season.
News of the Fire's potential move first broke in April. On Monday, the Sun-Times reported former Chicago Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said there is a "long-term idea" to build a soccer stadium at the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital in the Douglas neighborhood.
According to the Desplaines Valley News report, however, a soccer stadium within 35 miles of Bridgeview will result in "additional compensation" from the Fire.
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