Soldier Field

Soldier Field
"Stadium in a Park"
Soldier Field in 2006
Former names Municipal Grant Park Stadium (1924–1925)
Address 1410 S Museum Campus Drive
Location Chicago, Illinois
Coordinates 41°51′45″N 87°37′0″W / 41.86250°N 87.61667°W / 41.86250; -87.61667Coordinates: 41°51′45″N 87°37′0″W / 41.86250°N 87.61667°W / 41.86250; -87.61667[1]
Public transit Museum Campus/11th Street (Metra station)
18th Street (Metra station)
Owner City of Chicago
Operator SMG
Executive suites 133
Capacity 66,944 (1994)
61,500 (2003)[2]
Acreage 7 acres (2.8 ha)[3]
Surface Kentucky Bluegrass
(1924–1970, 1988–present)
AstroTurf (1971–1987)
Broke ground August 11, 1922[4]
Opened October 9, 1924
92 years ago
Renovated 2002–2003
Closed January 19, 2002 –
September 26, 2003 (renovations)
Construction cost US$13 million (original)[3]
($180 million in 2015 dollars)[5]
$632 million (2001–2003 renovation)[6]
Renovations: ($814 million in 2015 dollars[5])
Architect Holabird & Roche
Wood + Zapata, Inc.
Lohan Caprile Goettsch Architects
Project manager Hoffman Associates[7]
Structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti
Services engineer Ellerbe Becket[7]
General contractor Turner/Barton Malow/Kenny[7]
Notre Dame Irish football (NCAA) (1929)[8][9]
Chicago Rockets/Hornets (AAFC) (1946–1949)
Chicago Cardinals (NFL) (1959)
UIC Chikas football (NCAA) (1966[10]–1973)[11]
Chicago Spurs (NPSL) (1967)
Chicago Owls (CFL) (1968–1969)
Chicago Bears (NFL) (1971–2001, 2003–present)
Chicago Sting (NASL) (1975–1976)
Chicago Fire (WFL) (1974)
Chicago Winds (WFL) (1975)
Chicago Blitz (USFL) (1983–1984)
Chicago Fire (MLS) (1998–2001, 2003–2005)
Chicago Enforcers (XFL) (2001)
Designated 1987
Delisted 2006

Soldier Field is an American football stadium in the central United States, on the Near South Side of Chicago. It opened in 1924 and is best known as the home field of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL), who moved there in 1971.[12][13]

The stadium's interior was mostly demolished and rebuilt as part of a major renovation project in 2002, which modernized the facility and lowered seating capacity, but also caused it to be delisted as a National Historic Landmark. Soldier Field has served as the home venue for a number of other sports teams in its history, including the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL, University of Notre Dame football, and the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer, as well as games from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, and multiple CONCACAF Gold Cup championships. With a football capacity of 61,500, it is the second smallest stadium in the NFL.

In 2016, Soldier Field became the second-oldest stadium in the league when the Los Angeles Rams began playing temporarily at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had opened a year earlier.


Sculpture of a sailor and his family, gazing eastward, over Lake Michigan

Soldier Field was designed in 1919 and opened on October 9, 1924, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium. The name was changed to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925, as a memorial to U.S. soldiers who had died in combat. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926,[14] during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game.[15] Its design is in the Neoclassical style, with Doric columns rising above the East and West entrances.[16]

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,[17] bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000.[18]

Chicago Bears move in

Soldier Field was used as a site for many sporting events and exhibitions. The Chicago Cardinals used it as their home field for their final season in Chicago in 1959. A dozen years later in September 1971, the Chicago Bears moved in, originally with a three-year commitment.[12][13] They previously played at Wrigley Field, best known as the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, but were forced to move to a larger venue due to post-AFL–NFL merger policies requiring that stadium capacities seat over 50,000 spectators. They had intended to build a stadium in Arlington Heights. In 1978, the Bears and the Chicago Park District agreed to a 20-year lease and renovation of the stadium. Both parties pooled their resources for the renovation.[19] The playing surface was AstroTurf from 1971 through 1987, replaced with natural grass in 1988.[20]

Replacement talks

In 1989, Soldier Field's future was in jeopardy after a proposal was created for a "McDome", which was intended to be a domed stadium for the Bears, but was rejected by the Illinois Legislature in 1990. Because of this, Bears president Michael McCaskey considered relocation as a possible factor for a new stadium. The Bears had also purchased options in Hoffman Estates and Aurora. In 1995, McCaskey announced that he and Northwest Indiana developers agreed to construction of an entertainment complex called "Planet Park", which would also include a new stadium. However, the plan was rejected by the Lake County Council, and in 1998, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley proposed that the Bears share Comiskey Park with the Chicago White Sox.[21]

Renovation and landmark delisting

Aerial view of the stadium in 1988.
Aerial view from 2002, showing Soldier Field with interior demolished. Meigs Field airport is to the right in the image.
Soldier Field as seen from Lake Shore Drive. The modern grandstands, added in 2003, extend well above the original Neoclassical columns.

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. In 1988, 56 more skyboxes were added increasing capacity to 66,946. Capacity was slightly increased to 66,950 in 1992. By 1994, capacity was slightly reduced to 66,944. During the renovation, 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.[15] The front row 50-yard line seats were then now only 55 feet (17 m) away from the sidelines, the shortest distance of all NFL stadiums, until MetLife Stadium opened in 2010, with a distance of 46 feet. 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.[22]

In 2001, the Chicago Park District, which owns the structure, faced substantial criticism when it announced plans to alter the stadium with a design by Benjamin T. Wood and Carlos Zapata of the Boston-based architecture firm Wood + Zapata. Stadium grounds were reconfigured by Chicago-based architecture firm of Lohan Associate, led by architect Dirk Lohan, the grandson of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The stadium's interior would be demolished and reconstructed while the exterior would be preserved. This is an example of facadism. A similar endeavor of constructing a new stadium within the confines of an historic stadium's exterior was completed in Leipzig, Germany's Red Bull Arena, which similarly build a modern stadium while persevering the exterior of the original Zentralstadion.

Dozens of articles by writers and columnists attacked the project as an aesthetic, political, and financial nightmare. The project received mixed reviews within the architecture community, including criticism by civic and preservation groups.[23] Prominent American architect and Chicagoan Stanley Tigerman called it "a fiasco".[24] The Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore".[25][26][27] The renovation was described by some as "a spaceship landed on the stadium".[28] Lohan responded,

"I would never say that Soldier Field is an architectural landmark. Nobody has copied it; nobody has learned from it. People like it for nostalgic reasons. They remember the games and parades and tractor pulls and veterans' affairs they've seen there over the years. I wouldn't do this if it were the Parthenon. But this isn't the Parthenon."[24]

Proponents argued the renovation was direly needed citing aging and cramped facilities. The New York Times ranked the renovated Soldier Field as one of the five best new buildings of 2003.[29] Soldier Field was given an award in design excellence by the American Institute of Architects in 2004.[30]

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.[31][32] 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.[33]

In May 2012, the stadium became the first NFL stadium to achieve LEED status.[34]

Public transportation

The closest Chicago 'L' station to Soldier Field is the Roosevelt 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 Line, which also is used by South Shore Line trains, and 18th Street, which is only served by 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.



Single events

1926 Army–Navy Game at Soldier Field
Aerial view of the stadium in 2008

NFL playoffs

NIU Huskies football

The NIU Huskies football team plays select games at Soldier Field, all of which have featured the Huskies hosting a team from the Big Ten Conference. The NIU campus is located in DeKalb, 65 miles (105 km) to the west on Interstate 88.

Notre Dame football

In 1929, Notre Dame used the stadium as home field while Notre Dame Stadium was being constructed. The school has used Soldier Field for single games on occasion both prior to and since the 1929 season.


The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Miami RedHawks played a doubleheader on February 17, 2013 with the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Hockey City Classic, the first outdoor hockey game in the history of the stadium.[36] A Chicago Gay Hockey Association intra-squad game was held in affiliation with the Hockey City Classic.[37]

The Chicago Blackhawks played against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 1, 2014 as part of the NHL's Stadium Series. The Blackhawks defeated the Penguins 5-1 before a sold-out crowd of 62,921.[38] The team also held its 2015 Stanley Cup Championship celebration at the stadium instead of Grant Park, where other city championships have typically been held, due to recent rains.[39]

February 7, 2015 Soldier Field hosted another edition of the Hockey City Classic. The event had been delayed due to unusually warm weather (42 °F) and complications with the quality of the ice. The 2015 edition of the Hockey City Classic featured a match between Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan, followed by a match between the Big Ten's Michigan and Michigan State[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47] February 5 the organizers of the Hockey City Classic organized the Unite on the Ice event benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The event was centered upon a celebrity hockey game with former NHL and AHL players, as well as a public free skate at Soldier Field. Participants in the celebrity game included Éric Dazé, Jamal Mayers and Gino Cavallini. Denis Savard was in attendance, serving as an 'honorary coach' during the game.[48] February 15, 2015 Soldier Field hosted another Chicago Gay Hockey Association intra-league match in association with the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.[37]


1994 FIFA World Cup

Soldier Field before a soccer match
Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 17, 199414:00 Germany1–0 BoliviaGroup C/Opening Match63,117
June 21, 199415:00 Germany1–1 SpainGroup C63,113
June 26, 199411:30 Greece0–4 BulgariaGroup D63,160
June 27, 199415:00 Bolivia1–3 SpainGroup C63,089
July 2, 199411:00 Germany3–2 BelgiumRound of 1660,246

1999 FIFA Women's World Cup

Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 24, 199917.00 Brazil2–0 ItalyGroup B65,080
19.00 United States7–1 NigeriaGroup A65,080
June 26, 199916.00 Ghana0–2 SwedenGroup D34,256
18.30 Norway4-0 JapanGroup C34,256


2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
21 June 2007 Canada1–2 United StatesSemifinals50,760
 Mexico1–0 Guadeloupe
24 June 2007 United States2–1 MexicoFinal60,000

2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
23 July 2009 Honduras1–2 United StatesSemifinals55,173
 Costa Rica1–1 (3-5 pen) Mexico

2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
12 June 2011 El Salvador6–1 CubaGroup A62,000
 Mexico4–1 Costa Rica

2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
28 July 2013 United States1–0 PanamaFinal57,920

2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
July 9, 2015 Trinidad and Tobago 3–1  Guatemala Group C 54,126
 Mexico 6–0  Cuba

Copa América Centenario

Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 5, 201616:00 Jamaica0–1 VenezuelaGroup C25,560
June 7, 201619:00 United States4–0 Costa RicaGroup A39,642
June 10, 201620:30 Argentina5–0 PanamaGroup D53,885
June 22, 201619:00 Colombia0–2 ChileSemi-finals55,423

Single events

Special Olympics

The 1st International Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 19–20, 1968. The games spanned two days and more than 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competed in track and field and swimming, sparking a worldwide Special Olympics movement that now thrives today.

Rugby union

The stadium hosted its first international rugby union test match between the United States Eagles and New Zealand All Blacks on November 1, 2014 as part of the 2014 end-of-year rugby union tests.[50] More than half of the 61,500 tickets were sold within two days.[51] The All Blacks beat the Eagles 74–6.[52] The stadium hosted its second international rugby union match on September 5, 2015 with the United States hosting Australia as part of the 2015 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches shortly before both teams were due to travel to England for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[53] The Eagles were defeated 47–10. Ireland beat New Zealand 40-29 on November 5, 2016 at Soldier Field, as part of the 2016 end-of-year rugby union internationals - the very first time Ireland had beaten the All Blacks in a Test match in 111 years of play.[54]


Other events

President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Soldier Field
Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Soldier Field
Martin Luther King, Jr. at Soldier Field during the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement rally.
Opening ceremonies of the 2006 Gay Games
President Barack Obama throws a football at Soldier Field after the 2012 NATO summit.

See also


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