American Football Wiki
Soldier Field
Stadium in a Park

Location 16th Street, Lakeshore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Broke ground 1922
Opened October 9, 1924
Reopened September 29, 2003
Renovated 2002-2003
Closed January 19, 2002 - September 26, 2003 (renovations)
Owner Chicago Park District, City of Chicago
Operator SMG-Soldier Field Joint Venture
Surface Grass (1924-1970), AstroTurf (1971-1987), Grass (1988-present)
Construction cost $10 million
$600 million (Renovation)
Architect Holabird & Roche
Former names Municipal Grant Park Stadium (1924-1925)
Tenants *Chicago Bears (NFL) (1971-2001) (2003-present)
*Chicago Fire (MLS) (1998-2001) (2003-2005) *Chicago Enforcers (XFL) (2001)
*Chicago Blitz (USFL) (1983-1984)
*Chicago Sting (NASL) (1975-1976)
*Chicago Winds (WFL) (1975)
*Chicago Fire (WFL) (1974)
*Chicago Cardinals (NFL) (1959)
*Chicago Rockets/Hornets (AAFC) (1946-1949)
*Chicago Spurs (NPSL) (1967)
*1968 International Special Olympics Games
Capacity 61,500

Soldier Field is an American football and soccer stadium located in the Near South Side of Chicago, Illinois, near Downtown Chicago. It opened in 1924 and is the home field of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL), who moved there in 1971, and Chicago Fire FC of Major League Soccer (MLS).[1][2] It has a football capacity of 61,500, and it is the oldest stadium in the NFL.

The stadium's interior was rebuilt as part of a major renovation project in 2002, which modernized the facility but lowered seating capacity, while also causing 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, as well as games from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, and multiple CONCACAF Gold Cup championships. In 1968, it hosted the first Games of the Special Olympics. Other historic events have included large rallies with speeches, including by Amelia Earhart, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr.



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 held during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game[3] on November 27, 1926.[4] Several months earlier, in June, the stadium hosted several events during the 28th International Eucharistic Congress. Its design is in the Neoclassical style, with Doric columns rising above the East and West entrances.[5] The stadium cost $13 million to construct ($182 million in 2015 dollars), a very large sum for a sporting venue at that time (in comparison, L.A. Memorial Coliseum had cost less than $1 million in 1923 dollars).

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,[6] bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000.[7]

Chicago Bears move in[]

File:8X10A 1961 Chicago Bears o-line practice 1.jpg

1961 Chicago Bears offensive line in action. "Bears Workout at Soldier Field for Armed Forces game Friday."

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. Almost two decades later in September 1971, the Chicago Bears moved in, originally with a three-year commitment.[1][2] 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.[8] The playing surface was AstroTurf from 1971 through 1987, replaced with natural grass in 1988.[9]

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, Elk Grove Village, 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.[10]


File:Soldier Field Chicago aerial view.jpg

Soldier Field in 1988


Aerial view of Soldier Field during renovation in April 2002


Soldier Field as seen from Lake Shore Drive in 2013. 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.[3] 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 (14 m).

Landmark delisting[]

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 built a modern stadium while preserving the exterior of the original Zentralstadion. Fans and radio hosts such as WSCR's Mike North criticized the small seating capacity of the new venue, and fans for years have criticized the Park District's lack of care to the field surface after the first seasonal freeze and a refusal to consider a new-generation artificial surface, leaving the team to play on dead grass.

On January 19, 2002, the night of the Bears' playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, demolition was begun as tailgate fires still burned in the trash cans in the parking lots. Removal of 24,000 stadium seats in 36 hours by Archer Seating Clearinghouse, a speed record never exceeded since, was the first step in building the new Soldier Field. Nostalgic Bears fans, recalling the glory seasons, especially 1985, along with some retired players picked up their seats in the South Parking lot.

The foremen on the job were Grant Wedding, who himself installed the seats in 1979, and Mark Wretschko, who was an executive for the factory who made the new seats.

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.[11] Prominent American architect and Chicagoan Stanley Tigerman called it "a fiasco".[12] The Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore".[13][14][15] The renovation was described by some as "a spaceship landed on the stadium".[16][17] 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."[12]

File:20210220 Soldier from NEMA.jpg

View from NEMA

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.[18] Soldier Field was given an award in design excellence by the American Institute of Architects in 2004.[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[22]

Subsequent developments[]

In May 2012, the stadium became the first NFL stadium to achieve LEED status.[23]

On July 9, 2019, the Chicago Fire announced an agreement with the Village of Bridgeview to release the Fire from its lease for SeatGeek Stadium. As a result, the Fire returned to Soldier Field for the 2020 MLS season.[24]


Template:Very long section

  • Main article: List of events at Soldier Field


Single events[]

File:The Army-Navy football game at Soldier's Field (cropped).jpg

The Army–Navy game in 1933 or 1934.

  • The stadium hosted its first football game, on October 4, 1924, between Louisville Male High School and Chicago's 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.[25]
  • The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000+ was established November 26, 1927, as Notre Dame beat the USC Trojans 7–6. Subsequently, in 2016, 150,000+ attended a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers at Bristol Speedway.[3]
  • Austin defeated Leo to win the 1937 Chicago 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) and Cleveland Browns (0–3).

NFL playoffs[]

File:Soldier Field aerial.jpg

Aerial view of the stadium in 2008

File:Soldier Field Chicago.jpg

The outside of soldier field, stating: "Soldier Field, dedicated to the men and women of the armed services".

  • Other Bears playoff games at Soldier Field:

College football[]

NIU Huskies football plays select games at Soldier Field, all of which have featured the Huskies hosting a team from the Big Ten Conference. Northern Illinois University (NIU) is located in DeKalb, 65 miles (104 km) to the west on Interstate 88.

  • On September 1, 2007, NIU faced the Iowa Hawkeyes 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 Fighting Irish football used the stadium as home field for the 1929 season 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.

Special Olympics[]

The first Special Olympics games were held at Soldier Field on July 20, 1968. The games involved more than 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competing in track and field and swimming. In 1970, the second international games occurred, when Special Olympics returned to Soldier Field.[28][29]

Other events[]


President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Soldier Field

File:Douglas MacArthur speaking at Soldier Field HD-SN-99-03036.JPEG

Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Soldier Field

File:Gay Games 2006, Chicago.jpg

Opening ceremonies of the 2006 Gay Games

File:President Barack Obama throws a football.jpg

President Barack Obama throws a football at Soldier Field after the 2012 NATO summit.

  • The 28th International Eucharistic Congress held three days of outdoor day and evening events from June 21–23, 1926.
  • The Long Count Fight, the second heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, was held at Soldier Field on September 22, 1927.
  • June 24, 1932, a war show celebrating the bicentennial of George Washington's birth featured Amelia Earhart.[30][31][32]
  • May 27, 1933, Soldier Field opening ceremonies of the Century of Progress World's Fair. Postmaster General and DNC-Chairman James Farley facilitated the opening ceremony.[33][34]
  • October 28, 1944, President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt made an appearance at Soldier Field, which was the only Midwestern speaking appearance he made in his last reelection campaign. This appearance was attended by over 150,000 (with at least as many people attempting to attend who were unable to gain admission).[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]
  • US General during World War II Douglas MacArthur addressed a crowd of 50,000 at Soldier Field, which was his first visit to the United States in 14 years in April 1951.
  • Glenn "Fireball" Roberts won the only NASCAR Grand National race held at the stadium's short track which ran across the old configuration, in 1956.[43][44] Three Convertible Division races were held at the stadium.[45]
  • The Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr., held a rally here on June 21, 1964. As many as 75,000 came to hear Reverend King, Reverend Theodore Hesburgh (president of the University of Notre Dame, Archbishop Arthur M. Brazier, and Minister Edgar Chandler, among others.[46]
  • The Chicago Freedom Movement held a second rally here on July 10, 1966. As many as 60,000 people came to hear Dr. King as well as Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Peter, Paul and Mary.[47]
  • The early-to-mid 1980s saw the US Hot Rod Association host Truck and Tractor Sled Pull Competitions and Monster Truck exhibitions here. The engines on some of the vehicles would echo through the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago as they made their pull. Damage to the stadium turf on a few of the event occasion's led USHRA to move events to the Rosemont Horizon (known today as Allstate Arena).
  • 1974 The Chicago Fire of the World Football League played here before folding in 1975.
  • October 13 David D. Meilahn made the first-ever commercial cell phone call from his 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL at Soldier Field on a Motorola DynaTAC. This is considered a major turning point in communications. The call was to Bob Barnett, the former president of Ameritech Mobile Communications, who then placed a call on a DynaTAC from inside of a Chrysler convertible to the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell who was in Germany.[48]
  • The stadium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places beginning in 1984.[49] Its National Historic Landmark status was removed in 2006.[50]
  • In the summer of 2006, the stadium hosted the Opening Ceremony of the Gay Games[51]
  • In 2012, United States President Barack Obama held the 2012 Chicago summit, a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), at McCormick Place and Soldier Field.[52]
  • When the field and nearby Shedd Aquarium had to close to visitors because of the 2020 pandemic, Soldier Field became the exercise grounds for the Aquarium's penguins.[53]

In popular culture[]

  • 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.[54] The stadium is later seen being rebuilt by the heroes after Steve Rogers is appointed head of U.S. Security, following the aforementioned event.[55]
  • The 1977 documentary film Powers of Ten focuses on two people having a picnic on the east side of Soldier Field.[56]
  • 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.[57]
  • 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 17, 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 Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X, one of the games missions takes place in Chicago. Soldier Field can be seen along with the rest of the city.
  • In the 13th episode of Chicago FireTemplate:'s fourth season, Soldier Field is featured on one of their calls for a terrorist hoax. The stadium appears again in the 21st episode of the fifth season as one of their calls for a high angle rescue. This stadium is featured again in the eighth season as members of firehouse 51 respond to help victims of a deadly infection.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Rollow, Cooper. "Bears find home; it's Soldier Field", March 14, 1971, p. 1, part 3. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Bears sign to play in Soldier Field", March 14, 1971, p. 21. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Historical timeline of Soldier Field. Chicago Bears (2009).
  4. "110,000 to see game today", November 27, 1926, p. 1. 
  5. "Soldier Field", Chicago Architecture Info. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  6. "Truman telss Chicago crowd U.S. must remain strong", April 7, 1946, p. 10, part 1. 
  7. "Closing meeting at Chicago's Soldier Field", November 25, 1962, p. 64. 
  8. Lugardo, Sara (December 16, 2012). History of Tailgating in Chicago. WBBM-TV.
  9. "Bears' games at Soldier Field may be moved", August 16, 1988, p. 26. 
  10. Taylor, Roy (2003). Soldier Field History.
  11. Barboza, David. "Chicago Journal; Soldier Field Renovation Brings Out Boo-Birds", June 16, 2003. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sharoff, Robert. "Field of Pain", November 2002. 
  13. Kamin, Blair. "Soldier field plan: On further Review, the Play Stinks", April 5, 2001. 
  14. Kamin, Blair. "The Monstrosity of the Midway; Mr. Mayor: Stop the Madness and Admit That the Lakefront Is No Place for the Bears", June 11, 2001. 
  15. Kamin, Blair. "A tale of Hungry Bears and White Elephants", July 11, 2001. 
  16. Ranking the best and worst NFL stadiums (in en) (October 16, 2015).
  17. Chapman, Steve. "A stadium deal that is hard to bear", September 14, 2003. 
  18. Muschamp, Herbert. "Architecture: The Highs; The Buildings (and Plans) of the Year", December 23, 2003. 
  19. Mayer, Larry. Soldier Field wins prestigious award. Chicago Bears.
  20. Soldier Field loses National Historic Landmark status. General Cultural Resources News. eCulturalResources (April 24, 2006).
  21. Murray, Jeanne (October 20, 2006). Leveling the Playing Field. Preservation Magazine. National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  22. Weekly List of Actions taken on properties: 4/17/06 through 4/21/06. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service (April 28, 2006).
  23. Soldier Field earns top building honor. Chicago Bears (May 31, 2012).
  24. Mikula, Jeremy (2019-07-09). Chicago Fire reach deal with Bridgeview to leave SeatGeek Stadium for $65.5 million.
  25. 1926 Army-Navy Game. Library Archives. United States Naval Academy (November 26, 2001).
  26. NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears - January 12th, 1986 (in en).
  27. NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears - January 8th, 1989 (in en).
  28. The Beginning of a Worldwide Movement (in en).
  29. A Joyful New Movement Gains Momentum (in en).
  30. "Planes Thrill Crowd at Military Show", June 25, 1932. 
  31. "1,500 Soldiers Will Move into Loop Wednesday", June 13, 1932. 
  32. Laughlin, Kathleen. "Amelia Flies to City; Given Noisy Ovation", June 25, 1932. 
  33. "Chicago Fair Opened by Farley; Rays of Arcturus Start Lights", May 28, 1933. 
  34. O'Donnell Bennett, James. "Exposition Starts with Pageant in Soldiers' Field", May 28, 1933. 
  35. Gentry, Guy. "700,000 Tickets Out for F.D.R. Rally Tonight", October 28, 1944. 
  36. "Record Crowd Hears President Give Peace Program", November 4, 1944. 
  37. "Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, "Campaign Address at Soldier Field, Chicago" October 28, 1944". 
  38. Edwards, Willard. "F.D.R. Promises New Deal No. 2; Dewey Hits at War 'Credit' Claim", October 29, 1944. 
  39. Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Campaign Address at Soldier Field", October 28, 1944
  40. "Postwar Goal: 60 Million Jobs", October 29, 1944. 
  41. "Record Crowd In Chicago", November 4, 1944. 
  42. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945,Kennedy, David M. (1999). Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 pp. 767–769; 774–775. Oxford University Press. ISBN .
  43. Checkered Flag Waves for NASCAR Legends story – Soldier Field.
  44. Higgins, Tom (July 9, 2010). Chicago's storied Soldier Field was once a NASCAR track.
  45. Throwback Thursday: Chicagoland. NASCAR (September 12, 2013).
  46. Freedom Summer in Chicago: An Anticlimax. University of Illinois at Chicago Library.
  47. American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation,American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Little, Brown (2000). ISBN 0-316-83403-3.
  48. Oehmke, Ted. "Cell Phones Ruin the Opera? Meet the Culprit", The New York Times, January 6, 2000. 
  49. Soldier Field – Building #84001052. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service (1984).
  50. National Register of Historic Places Listings. National Park Service (April 28, 2006).
  51. Noel, Josh; Elejalde-Ruiz, Alexia (July 16, 2006). "Pride, Support, Protest Mark Opening", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  52. President Obama throws football at Soldier Field. Chicago Bears (May 21, 2012).
  53. Watch: Penguins visit the home of the Bears (in en).
  54. Siege #1
  55. Avengers (vol. 4) #1
  56. Powers of Ten. Film and description. Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) (June 14, 2011).
  57. Turan, Kenneth. "Movie Review: Flags of Our Fathers", October 20, 2006. 

Further reading[]

 Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City,Ford, Liam T. A. (2009). . The University of Chicago Press.  ISBN 978-0-226-25706-8.

External links[]