Laura Ricketts’ purchase of the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars has grown into a larger transaction designed to jumpstart the franchise in one of the league’s key markets.
The deal, expected for several weeks, includes a purchase price of up to $35.5 million, a record for an existing NWSL team — just edging out the $35 million Michele Kang paid last year for the Washington Spirit. But the Red Stars agreement also includes another $25 million to be invested directly into the club.
“To build the world-class organization that our fans deserve, we need to attract the world’s best players, coaches, and staff, as well as create an environment that fosters their success. We’re going to make that happen,” said Ricketts, who is heading an investor group of numerous local and international business leaders.
Ricketts is also part of the family ownership group of MLB’s Chicago Cubs and a minority owner of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
The final price Ricketts and her group will pay outgoing owner Arnim Whisler — who put the club up for sale late last year after he was found to be part of a pattern of abuse and sexual misconduct within the league — will depend on factors including short-term business metrics such as sponsorship and ticket sales, and the size of the NWSL’s next media rights agreement. The current, three-year pact with CBS expires at the end of this season.
Perhaps first on Ricketts’ Red Stars to-do list is determining the team’s long-term home.
The Red Stars currently play at SeatGeek Stadium in suburban Bridgeview, Illinois — a tough-to-reach venue not convenient for public transportation. The team is averaging a league-worst 4,033 per game at the venue, and the current lease extends through 2025.
Ricketts describes pursuing a facility upgrade as a “challenge-slash-opportunity.”