In what team officials are calling the "equivalent of Manchester U or Chelsea (Football Club) playing in your backyard," the Chicago Red Stars have signed a three-year deal to play all their home games at the Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex.
The Red Stars have moved to the professional soccer ranks of the fledgling National Women's Soccer League after two successful semiprofessional seasons. Team owner Arnim Whisler said the multiyear agreement to play in Lisle points to the team's commitment to excellence and sticking in the pro ranks.
"We realize the demographics of our fan base are mostly young suburban families, and their soccer-playing daughters, who want to have a relatively low-cost, great family outing," Whisler said Friday. "Benedictine gives us a superb setting to foster exactly what we want to do. I've never found anyone more oriented toward a strong partnership and flexible to the needs of women's sports than the folks at Benedictine University."
The season at Benedictine will feature VIP field-side and goal-line seating, as well as a beer garden and open pregame tailgating. With the additional seating options, the facility will accommodate around 3,600 spectators.
On the pitch, the team will feature Olympic gold medalist Shannon Boxx, Canadian national team players and Olympic bronze medalists Erin McLeod and Carmelina Moscato, and Mexican national team stalwarts Maribel Dominguez and Dinora Garza.
Whisler said the team is "as a good a bunch of women" as you'll find in sports.
"We try very hard and talk about being role models. We're an ego-free group that realizes we play for the fans and the league won't be successful if our women aren't there to foster the next generation," he said. "Being a team owner isn't always glamorous, but my favorite part is the end of every game when hundreds of young girls, who frankly have very few role models, are eyeball to eyeball with the top athletes in the game."
Lou Simios, Benedictine's director of auxiliary services, said that relationship with the fans was what the university was looking for in a partner.
"It's all about the right partnership and the right fit," Simios said. "And we think we've found a great new partner whose athletes are great role models and women the fans can look up to."
The regular season starts with a home game April 14 against Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign and runs through Aug. 19.
Each of the league's eight clubs will play 22 games during a 19-week span this season, with most games played on weekends and holidays. The top four teams from regular season play will qualify for the NWSL playoffs and compete in the semifinals on Aug. 24. The NWSL will crown its inaugural champion on Aug. 31.
Season, single-game and group tickets are available at www.chicagoredstars.net or by calling (773) 697-8699.