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Soldier Field
Stadium in a Park
File:Soldfldlogo.gif

Location 16th Street, Lakeshore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Broke ground 1922
Opened October 9, 1924
Reopened September 29, 2003
Closed January 19, 2002 - September 26, 2003
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 (formerly Municipal Grant Park Stadium) is located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois, and is currently home to the Chicago Bears. It reopened on September 29, 2003 after a complete rebuild.

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 Dome and into Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008.

HistoryEdit

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 due to 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.

Early configurationEdit

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 260,000 on September 8, 1954, for the Catholic Church’s Marian Year Tribute.[1]

Early years with the Chicago BearsEdit

Although used as the site for many sporting events and exhibitions, it was not until September of 1971 that the Chicago Bears first made it their home. 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.

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 modelEdit

The field serves as a memorial to American soldiers who died in wars, hence its name. It was designed in 1919 and completed in the 1920s. Yet, the Bears team was founded in 1919.Until the completion of the field they had to play on a different practice field. It officially opened on October 9, 1924 , as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, changing its name to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925. The new stadium seats 61,500 people - 5,444 fewer than the old one.

Other events hostedEdit

Mainly thought of as the long-time home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, the 100,000-seat stadium on the shores of Lake Michigan hosted the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney championship fight in 1927, track and field competitions and several major college football games, including Army-Navy and Notre Dame-USC.

The stadium was the site of numerous races. A 1/4 mile board track was built, and the first two midget car races at the track in 1939 were won by Sam Hanks.[1] The track was also used for motorcycle races. The board track was removed and it was changed to a half-mile dirt oval track. In 1956, NASCAR swung through for its only race at Soldier Field. Twenty-five cars started the 200-lapper, with Fireball Roberts averaging 61.037 mph to win $850. The racetrack was torn out in 1970.

In 1984, Soldier Field was listed in the National Register of Historic Places program managed by the National Park Service, and it was later designated a National Historic Landmark.

Renovation Edit

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."[2]

On September 23 2004, as a result of the 2003 renovation,[3] 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, Nebraska. 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.[4]

The current design of the stadium, with the Greek style columns being the primary renmant 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.

Notable eventsEdit

  • Soldier Field (then known as Grant Park Municipal Stadium) hosted its first football game on October 4, 1924 between Louisville Male High School and Chicago Austin High. Louisville Male won 26-0. (Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1924)
  • Three NFC Championship Games held at Soldier Field.
  • Soldier Field played host to the Annual Army-Navy Game in 1926 before an estimated crowd of 110,000.[5]
  • The Long Count Fight, the second heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, was held at Soldier Field on September 22, 1927.
  • The stadium and all time college football attendance record was set on November 16,1929 when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat the USC Trojans 13-12 in front of 112,912 fans. Notre Dame had met USC in 1927 and Navy in 1928 in front of crowds estimated at 120,000 in Soldier Field, but the 1929 number is the highest audited count.[5]
  • Austin beats Leo to win 1937 Prep Bowl; highest attendance ever in soldier field estimated at over 120,000.
  • Glenn "Fireball" Roberts won the only NASCAR Grand National race held at Soldier Field's short track which ran across the old configuration, in 1956.
  • Soldier Field itself was listed on the National Register of Historic Places[6] in 1984.
  • The Fog Bowl was an NFC Divisional Playoff vs the Philadelphia Eagles on December 31, 1988. Dense fog covered the game reducing visibility down to 15-20 yards. The Bears won the game 20-12.
  • 1994 FIFA World Cup Venue of all matches scheduled to play in Chicago, including the opening match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994.
  • Legendary rock group the Grateful Dead performed its final concert at Soldier Field on July 9, 1995.
  • Pearl Jam performed at Soldier Field on July 11, 1995 during their Vitalogy tour.
  • The Rolling Stones played the largest concert in the stadium's history on September 10, 2005.
  • On July 21, 2006, rock and roll band Bon Jovi performed in front of 60,000 fans at Soldier Field, for 3 hours straight, making it the stadium's longest running music concert.
  • On September 1, 2007, Northern Illinois University faced the University of Iowa in the first Division I College Football game at Soldier Field since renovations. The game is the second game of a home and home series between the two programs, although NIU's campus is located in DeKalb, 69 miles to the west of Soldier Field on Interstate 88. With attendance of 61,500, a Mid-American Conference record for a home football game was set.
  • Soldier Field appears in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie Flags of Our Fathers, when the survivors of the Iwo Jima flag-raising reenact it for a patriotic rally.
  • Several games of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup were held in Soldier Field. The final was contested on June 24, 2007 between the United States and Mexico, where the United States won 2-1, fueling an already-growing intense international rivalry.


ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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