By Frank Bennett Rowder
Chicago — In addition to experiencing a successful rebuilding program the Chicago Fire will host the league’s All Star Game at Soldier’s Field August 2. The announcement was made earlier this year by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and club owner Chairman Andrew Hauptman, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Target has been named sponsor.
The club will use this marquee event to celebrate its 20th anniversary in the Windy City. This marks the second time the Fire will host an All Star Game. It did so when the game was formerly held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview in 2006.The host committee is to be headed by Hauptman and his wife, Ellen and will include Canadian businessman Charles Bronfman’s daughter, Ellen.
The Fire received a much needed boost this year when General Manager Nelson Rodriguez and Head Coach Veljko Paunovic totally rebuilt the roster with veteran European players such as German soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger and Niermanja Nukolic; South America’s Jorge Bava; Dax McCarthy and Juninho.
These moves have reflected current successes the team is enjoying as it climbs closer to the top of the league, a sharp contrast considering it had the league’s worst record the past two years and had not made the playoffs since 2012.
Hauptman wants Fire fans to realize that the club has also made other upgrades in recent years, pointing to its $20 million soccer dome built two years ago in The North Center community in Bridgeview and expanding its image in Chicago’s downtown with a substantial advertising campaign. The organization subsidizes bus rides from the city’s soccer pubs to Bridgeview.
Rowder is a former soccer player and sports columnist for the defunct Chicago Loop News. He was a member of the Chicago Journalists Association board of directors.