BRIDGEVIEW, IL-This southwest suburb 12 miles from Downtown beat out more than a dozen other villages and the city in landing the Chicago Fire, which will build a $70-million stadium on 60 acres at 79th Street and Harlem Avenue. In addition to hosting the Major League Soccer franchise beginning with the 2006 season, the 20,000-seat-plus stadium becomes the centerpiece of a redevelopment project for this community of 17,000.

A 110-room Amerisuites Hotel already is on the drawing board, but restaurants, theaters and other retail developments on the site of a former Venture store are expected to follow with the Fire’s decision. The team, which will return to Soldier Field for the next two seasons, had drawn 13,500 fans per game during its two years in west suburban Naperville while the lakefront landmark was undergoing a $600-million makeover for its main tenant, the Bears.

Although the village will own the stadium, the soccer team will be the sole tenant on a long-term lease.”It is important to have a stadium where we can control our own destiny,” says Fire general manager Peter Wilt. “In addition to the obvious need to control revenue streams, it is critical that we control scheduling, fan services and additional programming.”

A memorandum of understanding is expected to be approved next month by village officials, paving the way for a groundbreaking this fall. Village trustees must sign off on a $40-million bond issue to pay for construction.

Being developed by Denver-based the Anschutz Corp. subsidiary AEG, the stadium also is expected to draw concert acts such as Celine Dion, the Eagles and the Dave Mathews Band. Those acts have been booked by AEG for other venues. The Anschutz Corp. either owns or has controlling interest in the Staples Center and the Forum in the Los Angeles market as well as the London Arena. The Fire also is one of 15 sports franchises that has the Anschutz Corp. as a major investor.

AEG recently opened the $150-million Home Depot Center, which hosts the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy as well as being a US Olympic training site; is developing the four-million-sf LA Live convention center and theater; as well as the 28-acre Millennium Dome along the Thames River in London.

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