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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Soldier Field – Chicago Fire

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Soldier Field 1410 Museum Campus Dr Chicago, IL 60605

Year Opened: 1924 Capacity: 61,500


Soldier Is On Fire

The Chicago Fire has been a member of the MLS since 1998. In that period they won one MLS Cup in their inaugural season and four US Open Cups (1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006). The club also hosted the 2017 MLS All-Star Game. Over the 35 years, the Fire has called several stadiums as their home pitch Their original home from 1998-2006 was Soldier Field along the waterfront.

They played in Cardinal Stadium in Napierville from 2002-2003 while Soldier Field went through renovations. In 2006 they moved to SeatGeek Stadium (then Toyota Park) in the suburb of Bridgeview. However, they returned to Soldier Field in 2020.

Soldier Field is the oldest venue in the MLS, as it was built in 1924. Over the years it has undergone multiple renovations. It presently has a seating capacity of 61,000. However, the Fire only utilizes the 100 and 200 levels of the stadium. The average attendance at Fire games is 15,000 fans. The move was made to increase awareness in the epicenter of the city and attract foot traffic. With the club playing 20-30 minutes away, many stayed away from home matches.

Food & Beverage 4

Chicago is a foodie town and Soldier Field’s concession offerings reflect the melting pot of ethnic flavors that are representative of the many communities that make up the city. Portage Park offers both Polish and Italian sausages, and Kronos Gyros offer both a gyro sandwich and a chicken gyro sandwich. Pilson’s Taco offers a walking taco and several burritos in different flavors.

Buona Beef is known for its delicious Italian beef sandwiches and Second City Pizza serves up Chicago-style pizza in cheese, sausage, and Italian beef varieties. There is a stand for Kosher offerings, including Kosher Dogs, Kosher Polish sausages, and pastrami sandwiches. For those who love great BBQ, Robinsons Ribs has ribs, BBQ pork or chicken sandwiches, and a Hot Link sandwich.

The standard stadium offerings are available at the Goalkeepers’ stand. This includes the spicy Chicago dog, hamburgers, peanuts, popcorn, peanuts, candy, and ice cream. The stand offers Pepsi brand soft drinks, bottled water, and both premium and domestic beers. Heineken is the official beer of the Chicago Fire and is available at all stands at Soldier Field.

Atmosphere 4

The Chicago Fire offers a full day of activities for their fans on gamedays. The day gets started three hours before the match with games and other fun at Burnham Downs, which is just outside the stadium. The area provides free admission and offers several soccer skill-based activities, including a speed shot station and an eye/foot coordination test for your ball dribbling skills. Booths and food trucks are also on-site to sell food, drinks, and Fire merchandise. The Heineken Airstream Bar is available for adult beverages.

The next pregame activity is the Starting Eleven Flag Presentation. One hour before the match starts, the Fire raises flags featuring the names and pictures of the eleven Fire starting players for the match. The flagpoles are located outside of Gate 7.

Once inside Soldier Field fans can pick up a free Chicago Fire flag at the Fan Services table to wave during the games. The Fire also operates a team store in the South Courtyard area. As you settle into your seats before the match, you will notice that the pitch is natural turf. It simply would not be Chicago sports stadium if you saw artificial turf!

Neighborhood 3

Soldier Field is located adjacent to the Museum Campus which includes Chicago’s Field. Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. If you head north along Lakeshore Drive, you will find all sorts of restaurants and several forms of entertainment along the famous Navy Pier. One of the most popular stops along Lake Shore Drive for a selfie is the Bean sculpture, which reflects you in a very distorted way. The Lakefront area also provides you with a wide variety of exercise options. There are jogging/walking trails and bicycle lanes that go on for miles.

During the summer months, fans can watch a baseball game at either Wrigley Field to cheer on the Cubs or travel to the southside and enjoy a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field. Closer to Soldier Field is Wintrust Arena where the Chicago Sky of the WNBA plays its home games.

Fans 4

The Chicago Fire has a large and loyal fanbase. This is partially due to the team’s longevity and the large ethnic populations found in the Windy City. These predominately European-origin neighborhoods have always seen soccer as “football” and as the world’s most popular sport. The Fire is known for their recruitment of European players to come to the USA, long before other MLS teams were doing it.

The Fire has built an extensive supporter group system over the years. The Supporter Section at Soldier Field is located behind the goal at the north end of the pitch and is known as “Section 8”. This is partially due to its physical location in the stadium, but it is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to a designation used by the military to denote soldiers who were “mentally unfit to serve.” The supporter groups readily accept this designation, as their antics do sometimes border on the crazy side.

The supporter clubs include Sector Latino, The Arsonists, Banter Buddies, Blitzer Mob, Husasria, Fire Ultras 98, Partisans, Red Scare, Second City North, The Western Front, Ditka Street Crew, and Whiskey Brothers Aught-Five. Many of these groups’ names derive from the geographic areas of Chicagoland that they came from. The club’s duties are to support the team, create tifos, or banners to display in the stands, and represent the team in their neighborhoods by doing charitable work in their communities.

Access 4

Getting to and from Fire games is very easy thanks to Chicago’s extensive public transit options. Many Chicagoans utilize public transit daily, as owning a car can be a very expensive proposition due to the lack of parking in the in-town neighborhoods.

There are several transit agencies that service Soldier Field. The nearest transit station is the Roosevelt Station, and it offers free shuttle service to and from the stadium on gamedays. There is also #128 Stadium Express Service from Union Station. METRA has two stations serving Soldier Field, the Museum Campus Station, and the 18th Street Station.

Parking is available for persons driving to and from games at the North Garage and the Waldron Parking Deck. Rideshare pickup and delivery zones are also located near the stadium.

Once you get to Soldier Field, the access is excellent. Your ticket will indicate what gate is closest to your seat, so no one gate gets too congested. Stadium gates also open 90 minutes before the match starts, which spreads out the entry process. The concourses can get narrow at some points in the stadium due to the quirkiness of the latest renovations to the seating bowl.

Return on Investment 4

The Fire uses Ticketmaster as its ticket sales service. Ticket prices are $50 for midfield seats on the west side of the stadium at the 100 and 200 seating levels, $45 for seats on the east side of the stadium at midfield, and $35 for seats at the end of the pitch. All ticketing is electronic. Parking passes are $40, with parking at either the Waldron Parking Deck adjacent to the stadium or the North Garage.

Most people take one of the many public transit opportunities available in the Chicagoland area to get to the Fire games. The cost of public transit to the stadium varies by the distance traveled. Prices at the concession stands are more expensive than the street price outside the venue, which is not unusual in professional sports.

Extras 4

Soldier Field served as one of the main venues for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup Championships in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2019

The first soccer game ever held on Soldier Field was in 1928. It pitted the Bricklayers and Masons FC against the New York Nationals.

Unlike most MLS teams, Chicago does have a mascot. His name is Sparky, and he is a dalmatian dog. Sparky visits all over the Chicago area to promote the team, and he also participates in Fire Safety presentations at schools in coordination with local fire departments.

Like many pro sports facilities, Soldier Field has a video race during the intermission between halves. The race features three “L” trains in a competition to see which one gets to Soldier Field first.

Final Thoughts

Historic Soldier Field has played a central role in the Chicago sports scene since 1924. Major soccer tournaments and Chicago Fire matches have been a part of that history off and on since 1998. The lakeside location and parklike surroundings are a favorite for fans from throughout the Chicagoland area. The future of this iconic stadium is in doubt, as a new stadium to house both the Fire and the Chicago Bears has been proposed for the Arlington area.

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