NWSL ball

Red Stars unhappy with Riot Fest conflict

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By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

Among the bands that will headline the newly minted Riot Fest music festival are Chicago-area natives Fall Out Boy.

The annual concert featuring an eclectic mix of musical acts will be held in Bridgeview Sept. 20-22 — and boy, oh boy, there is a lot of fallout from the Chicago Red Stars. The NWSL team is scheduled to play San Diego on Sept. 21 at SeatGeek Stadium, and the organization has made known its disappointment regarding the situation.

Riot Fest, which has been held since 2005 at various locations in Chicago at a venue fest organizers call RiotLand, will be held on the grounds surrounding SeatGeek, but Red Stars management has stated it thinks noise and parking issues will make it difficult to play a game in the stadium.

The Red Stars as of June 16 had not announced an alternative site for the game, but had threatened legal action against the Village of Bridgeview.

“It is unfair and unfortunate to have our club put in this situation, shining a light on the vast discrepancies in the treatment of women’s professional sports versus men’s professional sports,” Red Stars President Karen Leetzow said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring our players and fans have a first-rate experience on and off pitch, and we are working diligently to find a solution that will ensure our Sept. 21 game is a success.”

The Red Stars have played home games at SeatGeek since 2016 and has a lease that runs through 2025. The team’s new ownership group headed by Laura Ricketts took over last year and has made it known they would prefer to play home games in Chicago.

This latest issue may prompt the Red Stars to attempt to leave Bridgeview as soon as the organization can find an alternative site.

Bridgeview released a statement regarding the matter, claiming that when the Red Stars renewed their lease at SeatGeek in 2019, the franchise signed a contract in which it expressly agreed that the village had the right to host concurrent events at SeatGeek on game days.

“Indeed, over the past decade virtually all professional teams that played at the stadium, including the Fire, the Hounds, and the Red Stars themselves — have moved games or worked successfully with the village to hold concurrent events without issues,” the statement reads.

The Red Stars were informed of the possibility of the need to move their Sept. 21 match due to Riot Fest in April 2024, according to the statement.]

“As soon as discussions with Riot Fest were completed, the Red Stars were provided with written notice of the village’s exercise of its right under its agreement with the Red Stars. In that notice, the village stated that it and the stadium manager would work ‘in good faith’ to address questions or concerns the Red Stars might have as to the concurrent event.

“The Red Stars failed to respond.”

The village’s statement also expressed that gender is irrelevant regarding the matter.

“The village’s decision to schedule Riot Fest had nothing to do with gender,” the statement reads. “The village’s decision was strictly based on maximizing revenues from the stadium for the village taxpayers.

“The village supports the Red Stars and looks forward to working with them to make sure that any concerns they have about sharing with Riot Fest a portion of the surrounding area around the stadium are addressed and that Red Stars fans have the usual optimal fan experience on September 21, 2024, or whatever day they choose to play the game.”

Riot Fest officials released a statement expressing surprise about the matter.

“We were shocked to see the statement from the Red Stars regarding their dispute with the stadium and we were told that accommodations were made and agreed upon,” the statement said. “We are optimistic a resolution is forthcoming.”

Riot Fest draws as many as 50,000 people each day of the event. The Red Stars drew 53,332 fans to 11 home dates (4,848 per game) in 2023, last among the NWSL’s then 12 teams.

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CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 17, 2024

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