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Soldier Field (formerly Municipal Grant Park Stadium) is located on Lake Shore Drivemarker in Chicago, Illinoismarker, and is currently home to the NFL's Chicago Bears. It reopened on September 29, 2003 after a complete rebuild (the second in the stadium's history).

With the current stadium capacity of 61,500, Soldier Field became the smallest stadium in the NFL when the Indianapolis Colts moved out of the RCA Domemarker and into Lucas Oil Stadiummarker in 2008.

The closest 'L' station to Soldier Field is the Rooseveltmarker 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 Centermarker and Union Stationmarker. There are also two Metra stations close by—the Museum Campus/11th Streetmarker station on the Metra Electric and South Shore lines, and 18th Streetmarker, 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.

History

Previously it 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 game because of the risk of injury to the all-stars in what was essentially a meaningless exhibition, and the lack of competitiveness of the game, which in its waning years was almost always won by the professional champions. The final game in 1976 was halted in the third quarter when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed.

Early configuration

In its earliest configuration Soldier Field was capable of seating nearly 74,000 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 was 103,274 on September 23, 1954, for the Catholic Church's Marian Year Tribute.[57940]

Early years with 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 Fieldmarker, best known as the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Seating capacity was reduced to 57,000 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. By 1994, additional seating was added bringing the capacity to 66,944. [57941]

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

Origin of name and design model

The field serves as a memorial to Americanmarker soldiers who died in 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. With its formal dedication as Soldier Field on Saturday, November 27, 1926 during the 29th annual playing of the Army vs Navy game. 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. The new stadium seats 61,500 people—5,444 fewer than the old.

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

Renovation

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

Reaction to the renovation was mixed. The New York Times ranked the facility as one of the five best new buildings of 2003, while the Chicago Tribune architecture critic dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore."While Bears fans generally regard the renovated exterior appearance as strange and ugly, they find the interior to be a pleasant and comfortable place to watch a football game.

On September 23, 2004, as a result of the 2003 renovation, Soldier Field loses National Historic Landmark status - General Cultural Resources News Detail on eCUltural Resources > a 10-member federal advisory committee unanimously recommended that Soldier Field be delisted as a Landmark. The recommendation to delist was prepared by Carol Ahlgren, architectural historian at the National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraskamarker. Ms. 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.

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". 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 front row 50-yard line seats are now only 55 feet away from the sidelines. This is currently the shortest distance of all NFL stadiums. When completed, the Meadowlands Stadiummarker will eclipse this mark, with a distance of 46 feet.

Notable events

*The 1985 NFC Championship Game took place in Soldier Field, where the Bears defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24–0.
*The 1988 NFC Championship Game took place here, where the Bears lost to eventual Super Bowl XXIII champions San Francisco 49ers 28–3.
*The 2006 NFC Championship Game granted the Bears their second trip to the Super Bowl, the first in 21 years, with a 39–14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
  • Other Bears playoff games at Soldier Field:
*1985 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 21, New York Giants 0
*1986 NFC Divisional Playoff: Washington Redskins 27, Bears 13
*1987 NFC Divisional Playoff: Washington 21, Bears 17
*1988 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 20, Philadelphia Eagles 12 (this game is best remembered as the Fog Bowl, where dense fog covered the stadium, reducing visibility down to 15–20 yards.)
*1990 NFC Wild Card: Bears 16, New Orleans Saints 6
*1991 NFC Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys 17, Bears 13
*2001 NFC Divisional Playoff: Philadelphia 33, Bears 19
*2005 NFC Divisional Playoff: Carolina Panthers 29, Bears 21
*2006 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 27, Seattle Seahawks 24 (OT)


Further Reading

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


Image gallery

Image:Soldier Field Chicago aerial view.jpg|Aerial view of Soldier Field, circa 1988. Behind it is the Field Museum of Natural Historymarker.Image:Child,Mother,Father,MilitaryFamily.jpg|A sailor and his family, gazing eastward, over Lake Michiganmarker. Detail of a sculpture at Soldier Field.Image:Soldier_field.jpg|Soldier Field as seen from Northerly IslandImage:Soldierfield.jpg|Westerly view of Exterior of Soldier FieldImage:20070110 Soldier Field (2).JPG|Northerly view in front of Bronze Mural 2007-Jan-10Image:20070110 Soldier Field Bronze Mural (1).JPG|Front of Bronze Mural 2007-Jan-10Image:20070110 Soldier Field Bronze Mural (2).JPG|Back of Bronze Mural 2007-Jan-10Image:20070110 Soldier Field (1).JPG|Southerly view against skyline backdrop from Lake Shore Drivemarker 2007-Jan-10Image:Soldier Field from McCormick Place.jpg|Soldier Field viewed from McCormick Placemarker.Image:Soldier_Field_east_side_and_marina.JPGImage:Soldier Field.jpg|Soldier Field with view of new additions to topImage:Soldierfield.jpgImage:soldier_field_2006.jpg|Soldier Field 2006 NFL game kickoff Chicago Bears vs San Francisco 49ersFile:09122009 U2360Chicago.JPG|Soldier Field configured for U2's 360° Tour. The tour opened in North America at Soldier Field.

References

  1. (ARCHITECTURE: THE HIGHS; The Buildings (and Plans) of the Year By HERBERT MUSCHAMP (NYT) Published: December 28, 2003)
  2. Topic Galleries - chicagotribune.com
  3. National Park Service: Listing changes 4/17/06 through 4/21/06
  4. 2002 NCAA Records book - Attendance Records page 494 (PDF)
  5. American Pharaoh, Mayor Richard J. Daley, His Battle for Chicago and the Nation", By Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, Little, Brown, and Company 2000
  6. Cook County Listings at the National Register of Historic Places; Ref. #84001052


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