After failed Belmont Cragin’s proposal, Chicago Fire Eyes near West Side for training center and headquarters

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NEAR WEST SIDE — The Chicago Fire is launching its $90 million training center for the Roosevelt Square area on the Near West Side, weeks after a proposal to bring the center to a park in Belmont Cragin was stalled.

The football club has started talks with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) to build the complex on approximately 30 acres of vacant land managed by the Chicago Housing Authority bounded by Roosevelt Road, Ashland Avenue, 14th Street and Loomis Street.

It would serve as the headquarters and primary training facility for the Chicago Fire, and provide sports and recreation opportunities for families and young people living in the surrounding area, according to city and team officials. Project partners are planning several community meetings starting in March to gather feedback.

“Football brings people together, fostering a strong sense of history and community while showing immense passion for the game. We look forward to introducing the project to the local community, hearing their feedback and creating new opportunities for residents,” Chicago Fire Department President Ishwara Glassman Chrein said in a statement.

The facility would include practice grounds and a performance center that would house Chicago Fire’s Youth Academy, which would provide programs for local youth, especially those living in public housing programs operated by the Chicago Housing Authority, said officials. Other amenities would be determined by feedback from community members.

In addition to recreational activities, the development could lead to additional investment in nearby social housing sites and employment opportunities for nearby residents, officials said.

The team was previously looking to bring the facility to Hanson Park. Residents criticized the plan, saying they feared nearby youth and schools would lose access to the park. Those plans were scrapped in December after negotiations with Chicago Public Schools, owner of Hanson Park, failed.

The envisioned new location was once the site of ABLA Homes, some of the city’s earliest social housing projects. The housing projects were demolished in 2007. Part of the land is being developed into mixed-use housing as part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Roosevelt Square development, which will eventually have 2,441 units for rent and purchase.

“By reallocating these unused lands, we can obtain substantial funds to rehabilitate [public] housing and develop new affordable housing while creating employment opportunities for our residents and community members,” said Tracey Scott, head of the Chicago Housing Authority.

The project could “provide the surrounding West Side community with incredible employment, recreation and other opportunities in the future,” Lightfoot said.

Information about upcoming community meetings and opportunities to provide feedback on the plan will be posted on the Department of Planning and Development web page for the Chicago Fire Training Center. Residents can also provide feedback on the plan by emailing dpd@cityofchicago.org.

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