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  • Lloyd Brown

Soldier Field - Chicago Bears



Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Soldier Field 1410 Museum Campus Dr Chicago, IL 60605

Chicago Bears website Soldier Field website

Year Opened: 1924 Capacity: 61,500

 

Bears Soldier ON

Soldier Field is known as the oldest stadium in the NFL, as its construction and opening date back to 1924. The first issue with that is that it was originally called Grant Park Municipal Stadium. The name was changed to Soldier Field in 1925 at the request of the Gold Star Mothers. The second issue with this honor is that it did not become an NFL stadium until 1971 when the Bears moved over from Wrigley Field. It also was built in stages running from 1922-1939 during its original construction. At the conclusion of this period, the stadium could hold more than 100,000 fans.

Soldier Field lives up to its name as there are numerous salutes to the armed forces both inside and outside of the venue. A statue of a World War I “doughboy” is in the southern end of the stadium, while a veteran’s memorial water wall is in the northern end of the facility.

There have been numerous renovations since the 1930s, with the most massive taking place in 2002. This renovation demolished the interior of the stadium, leaving only the exterior façade of the stadium intact. These include the iconic columns that one thinks of when you think of the classic Soldier Field. The renovations so altered the stadium that it had its Historic Landmark status removed. The changes were ridiculed as the seating bowl inserted inside the exterior walls was much higher than the exterior, leaving the impression of a flying saucer landing on top of Soldier Field. Many locals referred to it as the “Eyesore on the Lakeshore”. However, there were good intentions to this remodel, as the purpose was to bring the stands closer to the field to provide a better view for the fans. They were successful in this accomplishment as only MetLife Stadium in New Jersey has seats closer to the action.

Today’s version of Soldier Field offers seating for 61,500 and more than 115 luxury suites.

Food & Beverage 4

Chicago is a foodie town, and the concessions available at Soldier Field tend to provide the best the city has to offer. South Marche offers Chicago dogs as well as Chicago-style pizza. Second City Pizza offers cheese, sausage, and Buona Italian beef pizzas. Gastro Pub 1410 carries hoagies and a great set of chicken wings. If you are in the mood for brats, the Stockyard Grill will fill the bill. Portage Park is known for its terrific Polish sausages. Buona Beef offers a delicious Italian beef sandwich. BBQ lovers can choose from either County BBQ or Bronzeville BBQ for chicken, pork or great ribs. Burger lovers should head over to DMK where they will have a choice of several delicious burgers.

Atmosphere 4

Architectural concerns aside, Soldier Field is a great place to watch an NFL game. The seating bowl does provide excellent sightlines to the field. The videoboards in the stadium measure 128 ft X 40 ft and provide a crystal-clear picture. The Bears have a long tradition going back to the creation of the NFL and the long coaching career of Coach George Halas. The field here is grass, as artificial turf simply does not belong on a football field in the city of Chicago. Even though some of the Bear greats like Sayers and Ditka did not play in this stadium they belong to the same heritage of later heroes such as Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, and William “The Fridge” Perry, who did play at Soldier Field and teamed up to bring the city of Chicago its most recent Super Bowl victory.

The Bears have a great deal of pride in their gameday experience for the fans. They offer four different areas of pregame entertainment and the areas around the stadium open 4 hours prior to the game, giving fans plenty of time to enjoy tailgating with their friends and getting fired up for the game. The stadium gates also open two hours prior to the kickoff, allowing fans more time to enjoy themselves with their seatmates.

The NFC North is almost like the “Original Six” in the NHL. Each of the teams in the conference has ties back to the beginning of the NFL. It is one of the most competitive conferences in the NFL, with every in-conference game close no matter what the team records are. All of this adds up to a great atmosphere to enjoy a fall afternoon at Soldier Field.

Neighborhood 3

Soldier Field is located off Lakeshore Drive, Chicago’s front door to Lake Michigan. Its immediate neighbors on the Museum Campus include the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. Between the deepness of the parkland and the vast wideness of Lakeshore Drive, the bus lanes and CTA tracks it is nearly a mile before you would find the small neighborhood taverns and other gathering places that typically surround stadiums.

If you head north on Lakeshore and you will find all sorts of restaurants and several forms of entertainment along the famous Navy Pier. One of the most popular destinations along Lakeshore Drive for a selfie is the Bean sculpture, which provides a reflection of you in a very distorted way. The Chicago Lakefront District also is a great place to get some exercise. There are running trails that go on for miles or you can rent a bike and cruise safely along the lakefront in designated bike lanes.

We advise you to take part in one of the many fan entertainment areas surrounding Soldier Field. They range from family-friendly entertainment to areas where hardcore fans can get their pregame football fix. When game time grows near, you don’t want to find yourself a great distance from the stadium as the lines get very long just before kickoff.

Fans 5

Unlike, baseball, where the allegiances are split between the northside/southside, Chicagoans are all Bears fans. This has been true for generations of families due to the team’s long history. Bears fans are amongst the most loyal fans in the NFL. They are easy to spot, as the dress code on gameday is wearing the classic jersey of your favorite Bears player. They also know all the words to “Bear Down” and sing it with great gusto after every Chicago score or victory. Chicago fans never let the often harsh winter storms that come off the lakefront deter them from being at Soldier Field on gamedays.

Even in their zeal for the home team, Bears fans show the Midwestern characteristic of friendliness to visitors. You may show up in an archrival Packers jersey, but the worst you can expect is a little good-natured ribbing from the fans around you. In fact, Bears fans have even been parodied on Saturday Night Live for their love and support for Da’ Bears over the years.

Access 4

Getting to anything in Chicago by driving can be a real “bear”, so we recommend you take one of the many modes of public transportation available in the Greater Chicago area. The CTA offers train access to Soldier Field on its Red, Green, and Orange lines via the Roosevelt Station. The #128 Soldier Field Express busses will run from both Chicago Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center directly to Soldier Field for the very reasonable price of $5 roundtrip. The METRA rail system runs “Bear Extra” trains up from the southside of Chicago.

If you insist on driving, please understand that the parking in the North, South, and Waldron Lots nearest the stadium are reserved for season ticket holders. Most lots require prepaid parking coupons. There is very little cash parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Adler Planetarium or Burnham Harbor Lots near the stadium. Offsite parking is located at McCormick Place Lot B or the Millennium Park Garage for $45. Shuttles will then ferry fans to the game. Lots open 4 hours prior to kickoff and close 2 hours after the game ends.

Once in the stadium, you may find the concourses to be somewhat congested. They tend to bend in several directions and then suddenly become ramps due to the odd fitting of the seating bowl into the original footprint of the stadium exterior. This is one of the things that make Soldier Field so unique.

Return on Investment 3

The Bears utilize a variable pricing system on their tickets, Preseason game tickets run from $41-$131, non-division opponents run from $69-$217. Divisional games go at varied prices as Packer games are $132-$254, Lions tickets cost $76-$218, and Vikings games go for $98-$227. We’ve mentioned the transportation fees in the Access section. There are several different price points found in the rates of nearby hotels, so sometimes it is wiser to stay further away from the stadium and take one of the many public transportation options to Soldier Field.

Extras 3

The Bears date back to an era where there was a team song. In the case of Chicago, that ditty is “Bear Down”

Among the events Soldier Field has hosted over the years are the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney “long-count” boxing match in the 1930s, the opening ceremonies for the soccer World Cup in 1994, and the final concert by the Grateful Dead in 2015.

The Midway is a climate-controlled hospitality space on the West side of the Verizon Mezzanine Concourse which includes seating, four full-service bars, specialty food stations, and plenty of monitors so you can keep updated on the game. Single-game passes can be purchased on the Chicago Bears app. Sounds like a great place to be on those late December games!

Final Thoughts

The Bears and Soldier Field both have a legendary history for Chicago natives. The fact that they never got together until the mid-1970s is somewhat symbolized by the present design of the stadium…. a modern-day seating bowl stuffed into a classic exterior dating back to the 1920s. Its’ setting on the shoreline of Lake Michigan is both a blessing and a curse. It is very scenic in the early fall, but brutal when the icy winds blow off the lake during the late-season games.

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