US Womens Soccer

Red Stars, Riot Fest venue dispute heats up, could see legal action

Both sides have taken public barbs at each other over the use of SeatGeek Stadium

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The Red Stars and RiotFest dispute is heating up, with the soccer team reportedly preparing legal action against the festival for declaring their home field, SeatGeek Stadium, the new home for this year's concert on Sept. 21.

The problem is that the Red Stars have a game scheduled that day against the San Diego Wave.

The team released a statement on Wednesday after the Riot Fest announcement, saying that the double-booking of the stadium grounds illustrates the challenges faced by women’s sports teams.

“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 vs. men’s professional sports,” team President Karen Leetzow said in a statement.

Ray Hanania, a village spokesperson, says the village is within the rights of their contract with the team to host an event parallel with the game. He also claims the village reached out to the team in April, informing them of the move.

Red Stars President Karen Leetzow said the team subsequently followed up with the village, hoping to gain clarification on the matter. Leetzow claims the village didn't follow up with the team on their questions about the booking. Again, Leetzow finds the negligence of the women's club troubling.

“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,” Leetzow’s statement reads. “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 September 21st game is a success.”

The village fired back after Leetzow issued her statement and said, “The Village’s decision to schedule Riot Fest had nothing to do with gender. As stated, the Village has held concurrent events at the Stadium during games for the Fire, the Hounds, and the Red Stars in the past.

“The Village’s decision was strictly based on maximizing revenues from the Stadium for the Village taxpayers.”

The Riot Fest organizers and Ald. Monique Scott (24th Ward) added another wrinkle to the dilemma. They blame the Chicago Park District for a delay in the permit approval process that was pushed from April to June, forcing the move to the southwest suburbs.

“If you’re doing a concert for 50,000 people a day, 150k people in a venue for a weekend, you need more than June to prepare for a concert of that magnitude,” Scott said.

The Red Stars also claim their lease with the village states the venue must be available for specified use, such as the festival, for scheduling purposes. It must include parking and accessibility, also.

It's unclear where the Red Stars will play on Sept. 21 if Riot Fest keeps their date at SeatGeek Stadium. Recently, the club set a National Women's Soccer League viewership record playing against Bay FC at Wrigley Field in front of 35,038 fans.

Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to use Wrigley Field again, as the Chicago Cubs have a scheduled home game against the Washington Nationals.

Soldier Field’s two primary tenants, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Fire FC, are both on the road that weekend, with the Bears in Indianapolis to play the Colts and the Fire in Montreal.

Guaranteed Rate Field is also vacant on that Saturday, with the White Sox in San Diego taking on the Padres.

The festival will still be held over three days from Sept. 20-22 and will be part of “Riotland,” with numerous stages, food vendors and more taking place around SeatGeek Stadium.

Information the festival’s lineup can be found on the Riot Fest website.

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