Soldier Field

Soldier Field
Soldier Field
"Stadium in a Park"
Soldier Field Logo.svg
Soldier Field in 2006
Former names Municipal Grant Park Stadium (1924–1925)
Location 1410 S Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605
Coordinates 41°51′45″N 87°37′0″W / 41.8625°N 87.616667°W / 41.8625; -87.616667Coordinates: 41°51′45″N 87°37′0″W / 41.8625°N 87.616667°W / 41.8625; -87.616667[1]
Broke ground August 11, 1922[2]
Opened October 9, 1924
Reopened September 29, 2003
Renovated 2002–2003
Closed January 19, 2002 – September 26, 2003 (renovations)
Owner Chicago Park District / City of Chicago
Operator SMG / Soldier Field Joint Venture
Surface Grass (1924–1970, 1988–present)
AstroTurf (1971–1987)
Construction cost US$13 million (1922–1939)[3]
US$632 million (2001–2003 renovation)[4]

($206 million in 2011 dollars[5])
Renovations: ($755 million in 2011 dollars[5])
Architect Holabird & Roche
Project Manager Kenny Construction/Hoffman Associates[6]
Structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti
General Contractor Turner/Barton Malow[7]
Capacity 61,500 [1]
Acreage 7 acres (2.8 ha)[3]
Chicago Bears (NFL) (1971–2001, 2003–present)
Chicago Fire (MLS) (1998–2001, 2003–2005)
Chicago Enforcers (XFL) (2001)
Chicago Blitz (USFL) (1983–1984)
Chicago Sting (NASL) (1975–1976)
Chicago Winds (WFL) (1975)
Chicago Fire (WFL) (1974)
Chicago Cardinals (NFL) (1959)
Chicago Rockets/Hornets (AAFC) (1946–1949)
Chicago Spurs (NPSL) (1967)
1968 International Special Olympics Games
FIFA World Cup (1994)
Sculpture of a sailor and his family, gazing eastward, over Lake Michigan

Soldier Field (formerly Municipal Grant Park Stadium) is located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois, United States, in the Near South Side. It is home to the NFL's Chicago Bears. It reopened on September 29, 2003 after a complete rebuild (the second in the stadium's history).



Origin of name and design model

The field serves as a memorial to American soldiers who had died in past wars, hence its name. It was designed in 1919 and completed in the 1920s. It officially opened on October 9, 1924, the 53rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, changing its name to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army vs Navy game.[8] Its design is modelled on the Greco-Roman architectural tradition, with doric columns rising above the stands. However, after being rebuilt, the modern stands now dwarf the columns.

Early configuration

In its earliest configuration, Soldier Field was capable of seating 74,280 spectators and was in the shape of a U. Additional seating could be added along the interior field, upper promenades and on the large, open field and terrace beyond the north endzone, bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000. The largest crowd for any event at Soldier Field is difficult to determine. Please see "Notable Events" below for specific events.

The Chicago Bears

Although used as the site for many sporting events and exhibitions, it was not until September 1971 that the Chicago Bears first made it their home. They previously played at Wrigley Field, best known as the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Seating capacity was reduced to 55,701 by building a grandstand in the open end of the U shape. This moved the field closer to both ends at the expense of seating capacity. The goal of this renovation was to move the fans closer to the field. Beginning in 1978, the plank seating was replaced by individual seats with backs and armrests. In 1982, a new press box as well as 60 skyboxes were added to the stadium, boosting capacity to 66,030. Fifty-six more skyboxes were added in 1988, increasing capacity to 66,946. Capacity was slightly increased to 66,950 in 1992. By 1994, capacity was slightly reduced to 66,944.[8]

AstroTurf replaced the grass in 1971, when the Bears moved to the stadium. Grass returned for the 1988 football season.

The field features many memorials to past Bears heroes. It is said that it has twice as many memorials than any other stadium.[citation needed]


In 2001, the Chicago Park District, which owns the structure, faced substantial criticism from the Chicago Tribune when it announced plans by Architect Benjamin T. Wood to alter the stadium. Proponents, however, argued the renovation was direly needed citing aging and cramped facilities.

View of east side and marina

Reaction to the renovation was mixed. The New York Times ranked the facility as one of the five best new buildings of 2003,[9] while the Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore."[10]

On September 23, 2004, as a result of the 2003 renovation, a 10-member federal advisory committee unanimously recommended that Soldier Field be delisted as a National Historic Landmark.[11][12] The recommendation to delist was prepared by Carol Ahlgren, architectural historian at the National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska. Ahlgren was quoted in Preservation Online as stating that "if we had let this stand, I believe it would have lowered the standard of National Historic Landmarks throughout the country," and, "If we want to keep the integrity of the program, let alone the landmarks, we really had no other recourse." The stadium lost the Landmark designation on February 17, 2006, primarily due to the extent of the renovations.[13]

During the renovation, Soldier Field received new light emitting diode (LED) video technology from Daktronics. Included in the installation was a video display measuring approximately 23 feet (7.0 m) high by 82 feet (25 m) wide and ribbon displays mounted on the fascia that measured more than 321 feet (98 m) in length.[14]

The current design of the stadium, with the Greek style columns being the primary remnant of the older facility, has prompted some fans to refer to the stadium as the "Spaceship on Soldier Field".[15] This is because of how the new stadium bowl rises above and hangs over the columns, which was largely not the case in the older design. Also with the renovation, the front row 50-yard line seats are now only 55 feet away from the sidelines. This was the shortest distance of all NFL stadiums, until New Meadowlands Stadium opened in 2010, with a distance of 46 feet.

With the current stadium capacity of 61,500, Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL. See List of current National Football League stadiums.

Public transportation

The closest Chicago 'L' station to Soldier Field is the Roosevelt/Wabash station on the Orange, Green and Red lines. The Chicago Transit Authority also operates the #128 Soldier Field Express bus route to the stadium from Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station. There are also two Metra stations close by—the Museum Campus/11th Street station on the Metra Electric and South Shore lines, and 18th Street, which is only on the Metra Electric Line. Pace also provides access from the Northwest, West and Southwest suburbs to the stadium with four express routes from Schaumburg, Lombard, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Palos Heights and Oak Lawn.

Notable events

  • Soldier Field (then known as Grant Park Municipal Stadium) hosted its first football game on October 4, 1924 between Louisville Male High School and Chicago Austin High. Louisville Male won 26–0. (Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1924)
  • The 28th Internaional Eucharistic Congress held three days of outdoor day and evening events June 21–23, 1926.
  • Over 100,000 spectators attended the 1926 Army/Navy Game at Soldier Field. This game would decide the national championship, as Navy entered undefeated and Army had lost only to Notre Dame. For once, the game lived up to all of the pre-game hoop-la, and even though the game ended in a 21–21 tie, Navy was awarded the national championship.[16]
  • The Long Count Fight, the second heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, was held at Soldier Field on September 22, 1927.
  • The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000 plus was established November 26, 1927, as Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California 7–6.[8]
  • Over 15,000 spectators attend the first leg of the 1928 National Challenge Cup (now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) between soccer teams Bricklayers and Masons F.C. of Chicago and New York Nationals of New York City. The match ended in 1–1 tie, and New York won the second leg 3–0 in New York City
  • Austin beats Leo to win 1937 Prep Bowl; another contender for the highest attendance ever at Soldier Field (estimated at over 120,000 spectators).
  • Glenn "Fireball" Roberts won the only NASCAR Grand National race held at Soldier Field's short track which ran across the old configuration, in 1956.
  • The Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Martin Luther King, held a rally at Soldier Field on July 10, 1966. As many as 60,000 people came to hear Dr. King as well as Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Peter Paul and Mary.[17]
  • Soldier Field was the site of the former College All-Star Game, an exhibition between the last year's NFL champion (or, in its final years, Super Bowl champion) and a team of collegiate all-star players of the previous season prior to their reporting to the training camps of their new professional teams. This game was discontinued after the 1976. The final game in 1976 was halted in the third quarter when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed.
Aerial view of the stadium
  • Other Bears playoff games at Soldier Field:
Configured for U2's 360° Tour, which opened in North America at Soldier Field in September 2009

1994 FIFA World Cup matches

Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Res. Team #2 Round Spectators
1994-06-17 14.00  Germany 1–0  Bolivia Group C (opening match) 63,117
1994-06-21 15.00  Germany 1–1  Spain Group C 63,113
1994-06-26 11.30  Greece 0–4  Bulgaria Group D 63,160
1994-06-27 15.00  Bolivia 1–3  Spain Group C 63,089
1994-07-03 13.30  Germany 3–2  Belgium Round of 16 60,246

Early to mid 1980s saw United States Hot Rod Association host Truck and Tractor Sled Pull Competitions and Monster Truck exhibitions at Soldier Field. The engines on some of the vehicles would echo through the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago as they made there pull. Damage to the stadium turf on a few of the event occasion's led USHRA to move events to the Rosemont Horizon Center(known today as Allstate Arena).

The Chicago Prep Bowl games are held here every year the day after Thanksgiving. The bowl game is older than the IHSA state championship tournament held since the 1960s.

Soldier Field in popular culture



  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Soldier Field
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Stadium History and Timeline". Official website. Soldier Field. 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Riess, Steven A. (2005). "Soldier Field". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c "Historical timeline of Soldier Field". Chicago Bears. 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Muschamp, Herbert (23 December 2003). "ARCHITECTURE: THE HIGHS; The Buildings (and Plans) of the Year". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Kamin, Blair (25 July 2004). "Why losing Soldier Field's landmark status matters". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  11. ^ "Soldier Field loses National Historic Landmark status". General Cultural Resources News. eCulturalResources. 24 April 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Murray, Jeanne (20 October 2006). "Leveling the Playing Field". Preservation Magazine. National Trust for Historic Preservation. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Weekly List of Actions taken on properties: 4/17/06 through 4/21/06". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 28 April 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Soldier Field". 
  15. ^ Chapman, Steve (14 September 2003). "A stadium deal that is hard to bear". Chicago Tribune.,0,44019.story. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "1926 Army-Navy Game". Library Archives. United States Naval Academy. 26 November 2001. Retrieved 21 May 2010. [dead link]
  17. ^ Cohen, Adam; Taylor, Elizabeth (2000). American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley : His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Boston: Little, Brown. p. [page needed]. ISBN 0316834033. OCLC 42392137. 
  18. ^ "Soldier Field – Building #84001052". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 1984. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  19. ^ Turan, Kenneth (20 October 2006). "Movie Review: Flags of Our Fathers". Los Angeles Times.,1,3679517.story. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Siege #1
  21. ^ "Powers of Ten". film and description. Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN). 14 June 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011. "The zoom-out continues, to a view of 100 meters (10^2 m), then 1 kilometer (10^3 m), and so on, increasing the perspective. €”The picnic is revealed to be taking place near Soldier Field on Chicago's waterfront, €”and continuing to zoom out to a field of view of 10^24 meters, or the size of the observable universe." 

Further reading

  • Ford, Liam T. A. (2009). Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226257068. OCLC 317923072. 

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by

Wrigley Field
Memorial Stadium (Champaign)
Home of the
Chicago Bears

Succeeded by

Memorial Stadium (Champaign)
current stadium
Preceded by
Comiskey Park
Home of the
Chicago Cardinals

Succeeded by
Busch Stadium
Preceded by

first stadium
Cardinal Stadium
Home of the
Chicago Fire

Succeeded by

Cardinal Stadium
Toyota Park
Preceded by
Giants Stadium
East Rutherford
Final Venue

Succeeded by
Giants Stadium
East Rutherford
Preceded by
Candlestick Park
RFK Stadium
Qwest Field
Louisiana Superdome
Host of NFC Championship Game
Succeeded by
Giants Stadium
Candlestick Park
Lambeau Field

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