The Chicago Fire soccer team unveiled plans Thursday to transform 30 acres of vacant land on the city’s Near West Side into a training facility.
The plan, announced by the team and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, comes after the Major League Soccer team dropped plans to build a $90 million training facility in Belmont Cragin’s Hanson Park. That proposal drew fire from neighbors who were concerned the facility would displace soccer-loving children and classes at nearby schools.
Instead, city officials and Chicago Housing Authority officials will begin preliminary discussions about building the facility between Roosevelt Road, Ashland Avenue, 14th Street and Loomis Street, officials said. That land has been vacant since the last of the ABLA Homes — Jane Addams, Robert Brooks, Loomis Courts and Grace Abbott — were demolished in 2007. Once the CHA’s second largest property, the ABLA Homes were once home to nearly 17,000 people in 3,600 units.
The Chicago Fire, which plays its home games at Soldier Field, “deserves to have a high-quality training facility,” Lightfoot said in a statement.
The facility would be in the 28th Ward, which is represented by Ald. Jason Ervin, a close ally of the mayor and chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus. Hanson Park is in the 36th Ward, which is represented by Latino Caucus Chair Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who has been at odds with Lightfoot since stepping down as the mayor's floor leader a year ago.
Ervin said in a statement that the proposed training facility would create “a long-term positive impact on our community.”
A series of public meetings will take place in the coming weeks, officials said.
“The Chicago Fire Football Club is committed to making a difference in the lives of young people and communities through soccer,” said team President Ishwara Glassman Chrein. “In neighborhoods across the city, soccer brings people together, fostering a strong sense of history and community while showing immense passion for the game.”
The proposed training facility would be adjacent to the under-construction Roosevelt Square development, which includes 2,441 units of new rental and for-sale housing. The first phase of the CHA development was completed in 2006 and the second is under construction, officials said.
CHA CEO Tracey Scott said in a statement that leasing the vacant land owned by the agency would allow the CHA to “secure substantial funds to rehabilitate CHA housing and develop new affordable housing while also creating employment opportunities for our residents and community members.”
The amount the Chicago Fire would pay to lease the land has not been determined, officials said.
Plans include practice fields for the team and “a performance center where team members prepare for matches,” officials said. The facility would also house the Fire’s Youth Academy, offering activities for youth, teens and young adults in CHA housing and surrounding neighborhoods, officials said.