Soldier Field -
Address: 1410 South Museum Campus Dr.
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Home of: Chicago Bears (NFL)
Date opened: October 9, 1924
Reopened September 29, 2003
Cost: $10 million
$600 million USD (2001-2003 Renovation)
Soldier Field, located at 1410 South Museum Campus Dr., Chicago,
IL 60605, was built in 1924 and renovated through 2001-2003. It reopened on September 29, 2003 after a complete rebuild (the second in the stadium's history).
It was the oldest stadium in the entire league. The outer shell of the stadium was left standing but the remaining
parts of the field were demolished and replaced to create “Soldier
Field II”. The stadium is owned by the city of Chicago and
the Chicago Park District and cost only $10 million to build in
the 1920s although the renovation project (2001-2003) cost $600
million. The fans of the Bears care so much about the team and
the field that they set up a series of taxes to publicly finance
the renovation to Soldier Field.
On September 23, 2004, as a result of the renovation, 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.
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. Another common nickname for the renovated structure is "the mistake on the lake." 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.
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 Blair Kamin 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.
The Chicago Blitz of the USFL also played
at the stadium in 1983 and 1984 and the Chicago Enforcers
of the XFL played in Soldier Field in 2001. With an airport located
a mere two miles from the field, arrangements can be made to shuttle
directly off a flight and into the lot at Soldier
Field. The parking lot of Soldier Field was also increased to allow
parking for 8,000 cars if needed. In its earliest configuration, Soldier Field was capable of seating nearly 74,000 spectators, and the renovation had reduced the seats to
61,500, the smallest seat capacity of all stadiums. During the 2001-2003 renovation/reconstruction
of Soldier Field, the Bears were forced to find a new home for
games. They made the move to Champaign, Illinois, to play their
home games at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois. The
first game at the New Soldier Field was played on September 29,