Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman's address to Monday's Chicago Fire Season Kickoff Luncheon attendees...
It's always a privilege to be here and a privilege to be part of this special club. What an incredible turnout.
The offseason is in some ways the busiest time of the year for us as we have only a short window to review where we are and then make things happen. And, anyone who is following the club closely and sees the range of initiatives we are working on knows that this is an organization, an enterprise, a brand, and a team that is truly on the move.
But each year, it's this particular day, this initial gathering of our supporters from across this city at the season kickoff luncheon where it all hits me. Where I get that combination of emotions; where it feels as though the tie comes off, and I’m ready to be a fan again. I’m both nervous and excited and there’s that contagious excitement, that connection to the club and to each other. I for one cannot wait for the season to begin, and to take off on another epic adventure with all of you. And, as with any season, there will be ups and downs, we will suffer and celebrate through every game together, we will commiserate about (well…about everything), we will commit to the cause, we will compete with the intent of always winning and we will have these incredible opportunities to impact the community and one another along the way.
So I am reminded on this day that my care for the club isn't just about wins and losses or about jersey sponsors, though those things are critically important. It really does run deeper.
The phrase or motto we have been expressing of late, Our City, Our Club… also runs deep and so it should — these are not just words sewn into our merchandise, but rather a reflection of our core principles that are woven into the fabric of the entire organization. It has the kind of meaning that I feel being here today. It’s hard to put into words but it speaks to me and I hope it speaks to you.
It's the sense of community that comes with our growing club. It’s about the aspirations and idealism of what this club is and what it can be. And the honest truth that a club like ours is only as powerful; only as impactful; only as meaningful as the combination of forces within our city and our club.
Each year, I come up here and I tell you how psyched I am for the season and how much I love this city and this club and how proud I am of the work that we do across the community. And it's true, I am psyched about the season, and I do love this city and this club and I am very proud of the amazing work of our Foundation. However, seeing as it's Our City, Our Club, and instead of me doing all of the talking, I thought it would be cool to hear from a few folks around the room who I saw on the way in today.
Hey, David Berchem, what was your favorite moment from the last year or what about the Fire makes you care so much about the club??
David Berchem: “Traveling on the bus with Section 8 Chicago to Columbus was by far the most memorable moment of the season for me. It is not just a group of people that love a sport. It is a group of people on a mission to help the sport grow and the special feeling of being a part of something special happening around you. To be able to take our city pride and our team pride, 500 strong, to Columbus and rally behind our team really reminded me of the sense of community involved in being a Fire fan.”
What about you Erin Kwiatkowski, what moment stood out in your mind?
Erin Kwiatkowski: “I was part of the group that helped organize the Fire’s practice in the community at Benito Juarez Community Academy last summer. Our players trained on the field at the school in Pilsen and then spent time afterward to sign autographs and share a meal with supporters who came out.”
Zach Dicken, what moment resonated with you the most?
Zach Dicken: “Watching the crowd go nuts after Cory Gibbs scored a header against Manchester United was by far my favorite moment. There was great buzz around Chicago and the electric atmosphere provided for a great day.”
Right; those are incredible aspects of Our City, Our Club. It's not just about Frank Klopas or about players like Sean Johnson or Logan Pause or Dominic Oduro or Pavel Pardo or Marco Pappa, Cory Gibbs, Patrick Nyarko or new talents to the team like Arne Friendrich, Rafael Robayo or Federico Puppo. We are expecting a lot from each of them and the rest of our dynamic team.
But, what it is really about is our connectivity with one another; and those players to each other, and our front office with our supporters and our community. It is about our passion for this beautiful game and about our values and who we are as a community rallying around Our City, Our Club in whatever way suits you, in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. This past week, I read the story about Flynn Murphy, who, inspired by Section 8, donated bone marrow to save a life of someone he doesn’t even know. And Matt Mason who is raising money for the Chicago Fire Foundation by hiking the Appalachian Trail. – think about that.
Don't kid yourself; everyone in this room helps us to shape what those values are around Our City, Our Club; you are part of this story; you are responsible for our club in our city just as much as I am.
We at the Chicago Fire Soccer Club take pride in that; we honor that; and we believe in the strength to our club that comes from that.
So that's what today is about for me and what makes it especially powerful and meaningful.
Not only do I have that shared experience today with all of you and with our incredible team and our hard-working executives but also, I have the special privilege of sharing the experience today with my wife Ellen, my two children Lila and Zack and my sister Jodi.
So thank you to everyone in this room for your commitment to Our City and Our Club. I look forward to seeing you at Toyota Park. I look forward to a successful year. I really believe in this club and I thank all of you for believing too.