Soldier Field

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Soldier Field
"Stadium in a Park"
Soldier Field Logo.svg
Soldier field 2006.jpg
Soldier Field in 2006
Former names Municipal Grant Park Stadium (1924–1925)
Location 1410 S Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, Illinois, United States
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) (1968–69)
Chicago Bears (NFL) (1971–2001, 2003–present)
Chicago Sting (NASL) (1975–76)
Chicago Fire (WFL) (1974)
Chicago Winds (WFL) (1975)
Chicago Blitz (USFL) (1983–84)
Chicago Fire (MLS) (1998–2001, 2003–05)
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 92 years ago 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Aerial view of the stadium in 1988.
Aerial view from 2002, showing Soldier Field with interior demolished. Meigs Field 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.[citation needed] 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[edit]

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[edit]

1926 Army–Navy Game at Soldier Field
Aerial view of the stadium in 2008
  • The stadium hosted its first football game, on October 4, 1924, between Louisville Male High School and Chicago Austin Community Academy High School. Louisville's team won 26–0. (Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1924)
  • Over 100,000 spectators attended the 1926 Army–Navy Game. It would decide the national championship, as Navy entered undefeated and Army had lost only to Notre Dame. The game lived up to its hype, and even though it ended in a 21–21 tie, Navy was awarded the national championship.[35]
  • The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000+ was established November 26, 1927, as Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California 7–6.[15]
  • Austin defeated Leo to win the 1937 Prep Bowl; another contender for the highest attendance ever (estimated at over 120,000 spectators). The Chicago Prep Bowl games are held at Soldier Field yearly on the day after Thanksgiving. The bowl game is older than the IHSA state championship tournament held since the 1960s.
  • The stadium was host to 41 College All-Star Games, an exhibition between the previous year's NFL champion (or, in its final years, Super Bowl champion) and a team of collegiate all-star players prior to their reporting to their new professional teams training camps. This game was discontinued after the 1976 NFL season. The final game in 1976 was halted in the third quarter when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed.
  • In 2012, Notre Dame hosted a game at Soldier Field against the University of Miami as part of their Shamrock Series.
  • Four NFC Championship Games have been held at the stadium.
  • NFL teams winless at Soldier Field: Baltimore Ravens (0–3), Cleveland Browns (0–3), and San Diego Chargers (0–4).
  • NFL teams unbeaten at Soldier Field: Houston Texans (2–0).

NFL playoffs[edit]

  • Other Bears playoff games at Soldier Field:

NIU Huskies football[edit]

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.

  • On September 1, 2007, NIU faced the University of Iowa in the first Division I College Football game at Soldier Field since renovations. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskies, 16–3.
  • On September 17, 2011, the Huskies returned to play the Wisconsin Badgers in a game that was called "Soldier Field Showdown II". The eventual Big Ten champion Badgers topped NIU, 49–7.
  • On September 1, 2012, NIU hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes in a season opener that was called "Soldier Field Showdown III". The Hawkeyes narrowly defeated the Huskies, 18–17.

Notre Dame football[edit]

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[edit]

Soldier Field before a soccer match
Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 17, 1994 14:00  Germany 1–0  Bolivia Group C/Opening Match 63,117
June 21, 1994 15:00  Germany 1–1  Spain Group C 63,113
June 26, 1994 11:30  Greece 0–4  Bulgaria Group D 63,160
June 27, 1994 15:00  Bolivia 1–3  Spain Group C 63,089
July 2, 1994 11:00  Germany 3–2  Belgium Round of 16 60,246

1999 FIFA Women's World Cup[edit]

Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 24, 1999 17.00  Brazil 2–0  Italy Group B 65,080
19.00  United States 7–1  Nigeria Group A 65,080
June 26, 1999 16.00  Ghana 0–2  Sweden Group D 34,256
18.30  Norway 4-0  Japan Group C 34,256

CONCACAF Gold Cups[edit]

2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
21 June 2007  Canada 1–2  United States Semifinals 50,760
 Mexico 1–0  Guadeloupe
24 June 2007  United States 2–1  Mexico Final 60,000

2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
23 July 2009  Honduras 1–2  United States Semifinals 55,173
 Costa Rica 1–1 (3-5 pen)  Mexico

2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
12 June 2011  El Salvador 6–1  Cuba Group A 62,000
 Mexico 4–1  Costa Rica

2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
28 July 2013  United States 1–0  Panama Final 57,920

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[edit]

Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Spectators
June 5, 2016 16:00  Jamaica 0–1  Venezuela Group C 25,560
June 7, 2016 19:00  United States 4–0  Costa Rica Group A 39,642
June 10, 2016 20:30  Argentina 5–0  Panama Group D 53,885
June 22, 2016 19:00  Colombia 0–2  Chile Semi-finals 55,423

Single events[edit]

Special Olympics[edit]

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[edit]

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 shortly before both teams were due to travel to England for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[53] The Eagles were defeated 47–10. Ireland will also host a match at the stadium against New Zealand on November 5, 2016. This match forms part of the 2016 end-of-year rugby union internationals.


Other events[edit]

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.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the Marvel Comics event Siege, Soldier Field is inadvertently destroyed mid-game by Thor's friend Volstagg when he is tricked into fighting the U-Foes through Loki and Norman Osborn's manipulations of events.[81] The stadium is later seen being rebuilt by the heroes after Steve Rogers is appointed head of U.S. Security, following the aforementioned event.[82]
  • The 1977 documentary film Powers of Ten focuses on two people having a picnic on the east side of Soldier Field.[83]
  • The stadium appears in the 2006 Clint Eastwood–directed movie Flags of Our Fathers, when the survivors of the Iwo Jima flag-raising reenact it for a patriotic rally.[84]
  • The opening match of the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field was one of the five events covered in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary June 17th, 1994.
  • Soldier Field features (much changed) in August 4017a.d. in From The Highlands short story in David Weber's anthology collection Changer Of Worlds. It appears to have gone through multiple renovations, rebuilds and even having been built over, until nothing but the open space of the original remained
  • In the 13th Episode of Chicago Fire's fourth season, Soldier Field was featured on one of their calls for a terrorist hoax.


See also[edit]


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  10. ^ Ford, Liam T.A. Ford (2009). Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City (1st ed.). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. p. 236. UIC started playing football at Soldier Field in 1966 
  11. ^ Ford, Liam T. A. Ford (2009). Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City (1st ed.). Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. p. 236. their last home game at Soldier Field, on November 3, 1973 
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  36. ^ [1] Archived July 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
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  49. ^ Liverpool Hold Off Olympiacos at Soldier Field July 28, 2014 Retrieved July 28, 2014
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  81. ^ Siege #1
  82. ^ Avengers (vol. 4) #1
  83. ^ "Powers of Ten". Film and description. Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN). June 14, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 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. 
  84. ^ Turan, Kenneth (October 20, 2006). "Movie Review: Flags of Our Fathers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]