BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire may not be having the most successful season, but it’s definitely not boring.
Fire general manager and president Nelson Rodriguez addressed questions from reporters before Wednesday’s match against Columbus Crew SC. Despite the team being in the midst of arguably its lowest point of the season, Rodriguez was mostly asked about off the field topics. First among those was the team’s upcoming stadium move out of Bridgeview and back to Chicago.
Rodriguez said there has been “a preliminary conversation with the folks running Soldier Field.” He said there was no timetable for finalizing anything at this point. He did later specifically mention the value of playing in Soldier Field, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
“It’s not about the size of the venue,” Rodriguez said. “I do think the location of the venue matters. It’s been challenging to get here for many fans. Soldier Field is well-known, easier to get to and even on events like the Gold Cup final, which had 62,000, it clears out pretty easily and pretty quickly.”
The location of SeatGeek Stadium isn’t ideal for many Chicago residents. Soldier Field can’t magically turn the team into a winner either. The Fire have two playoff appearances and zero playoff wins since 2009.
“We do not believe that moving to the city is a salve for all of our issues,” Rodriguez said. “We know that there’s a lot of other work that we need to do.
“We have to market our team more… But the reality also is we have to have a product that resonates with the fans. That starts with winning.”
Fire are “open for business”
Outside of the stadium move, the most interesting thing Rodriguez said was about the team’s recent run of results. The Fire entered the day 5-9-7, in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and four points out of a playoff spot.
In his opening statement, he talked about a meeting he had with the players and staff two days after the U.S. Open Cup loss at Saint Louis FC. He gave the team a five-game window to hit certain results, otherwise things would need to change.
That five-match stretch ended with the Fire losing 2-1 to FC Cincinnati at home. The Fire finished 1-3-1 in those five matches.
“While the effort and intention was there, the results weren’t,” Rodriguez said. “So our team, and the entire league, knows that we’re open for business.”
Rodriguez said he received an offer of $50,000 of allocation money and a first-round pick for winger Aleksandar Katai, which he said was insulting. It still sounds like moves are on the horizon. The Fire dealt midfielder Mo Adams to Atlanta earlier on Wednesday.
“We have shown I think a more than reasonable amount of patience for the group to come together and to gel,” Rodriguez said. “That hasn’t happened so now I’ll also be more aggressive in seeking opportunities rather than waiting to see what may come our way.”
Rodriguez said they made a $5 million offer for a young South American player a few weeks ago. A European team then swooped in with a $10 million offer. He said they are also looking at other potential designated players.
“We’re fielding more inbound calls,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve proactively reached out to every team. We’re engaged in two, I would say serious, discussions with different players with two different teams, but we’ll see where it takes us.”
Latest on a potential rebrand
Rodriguez has talked about how the club is looking into a potential rebrand, or “brand refresh” as he has phrased it. He gave the latest on that front, although concrete info is still lacking.
“We are just about done with yet another wave of seeking input from fans and partners,” he said. “We’ve gotten tremendous responses from surveys that we’ve done. We’ve completed two. We have one more survey to do in addition to some small focus groups and even some one-on-ones.”
He explained that they are trying to figure out what is important to fans, with a wide range of answers.
“We’ve focused on asking about the current name, the current logo, our current colors, our current uniform and even the meaning of the name and what among those things are really important to people, what among those things are they more open to changing,” Rodriguez said.