Chicago Fire supporters planning big birthday party for club

Pro sports franchises are known to throw parties for their fans.

They call them "conventions," and they're a great way to market the team during the off-season.

And then there's the Chicago Fire, which will receive a birthday party thrown by its supporters this fall, during the club's regular season.

"To our knowledge we are the only supporters club in soccer and only fan base in America that really tries to own its own team's history," said Scott Greene, chairman of Section 8 Chicago, the Fire's Independent Supporters Association.

"For us it's such an important thing to really do and bring all of those who have been a part of the Fire family together every major anniversary, whether that be players, former front-office folks, fans, all of that."

The 20th anniversary party will take place Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center. The date wasn't picked at random. It was the date in 1997 that then-general manager Peter Wilt announced at Navy Pier the name of the new club that started play in Major League Soccer in 1998. It's also the date of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

The club itself is ready to join in the celebration, as it did five years ago when Section 8 organized a 15th anniversary party, the first in what leaders hope will become a long series.

"It's a big moment in the club's history," said current Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez, who will attend the party and who ran in the group's fundraising 5K Saturday at the club's North Side facility. "It's something, quite frankly, that I think the club should be more involved in. Around the world typically these types of things are managed by the club and not the supporters. But we're respecting the supporters' wishes in this instance. If they want help or need help or we can do anything for them, I hope they would ask."

The 15th anniversary party was based on team conventions.

"We looked at those models and said we should be celebrating and thinking long term," former Section 8 chairman Joel Piktel said. "So we planned the 15th thinking, What's the 80th going to be like, and the 75th going to be like?"

The difference is that team-driven events are done with the goal of benefiting the team.

"With us, we didn't market it as an activation. It wasn't to sell tickets. It was to celebrate the community, the city, the history and our club. Everything we do is to celebrate the whole soccer club notion," Piktel added, emphasizing the word club. "It's what makes us different from all the other franchises."

"We're the ones that continue to be here," Greene added of the club's supporters. "We love it when the team has helped us out in such a complementary fashion, but at the same time for us to take the lead we feel it's a very important and valuable thing to do for the soccer community in general."

Many former Fire players - such as Hristo Stoichkov, Lubos Kubik, Mike Magee and Gonzalo Segares - will attend. Some of them will fly to Chicago and stay at the fans' expense thanks to extensive fundraising. Section 8 is selling tickets and accepting donations at

"Everything in general is coming together well, from venue to hotels to our beers. Our beer list is ridiculous," Greene said.

If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. The party is being an organized by a separate committee of 8 to 10 people.

"They're really doing such a great job," Greene said.

• Follow Orrin on Twitter at @Orrin_Schwarz.

Former Chicago Fire player Hristo Stoichkov, right, attended the 15th anniversary party and will be back for the 20th. Section 8 Chicago/October 8th Committee
Former Chicago Fire defender Lubos Kubik attended the 15th anniversary party and will be back for the 20th. Section 8 Chicago/October 8th Committee
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