MUSIC - Rainbows in the end zone by Sam Spence
Soldier Field - Opened in 1924, gutted and completely renovated in 2002 and is still in use. Known as Municipal Grant Park Stadium 1924 - 1925, Soldier Field 1925 - present.
Location - 1410 S. Museum Campus Dr., Chicago, Illinois.
A cold blast of frigid air hits you in the face as you sit in the stands and the guy sitting next you says "this is BEAR weather." This must be Soldier field, Chicago. Literally located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Soldier field has stood at 16th Street and Lakeshore Drive since 1924. When it opened, the stadium was known as Municipal Grant Park Stadium. Opening day was October 9. 1924 on the 53rd anniversary of the great Chicago fire. The stadium was built in a U shape and could seat 74,000 people. In 1926 the name was changed to Soldier field, the name it retains to this day.
Soldier field was used for the Chicago Charities College All-star Game from 1934 till its last game in 1976. It was a game between the college all stars and the champions of the NFL. Thru the 40's, crowds were huge for the game, but as the 70's dawned, NFL owners were reluctant to let their college draft picks play in a meaningless exhibition game. So the final contest was played on July 23, 1976, between the all stars and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was played in a huge downpour and the game was stopped during the 3rd quarter when playing conditions were non existent. After fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts, Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided the game would not be resumed. The Steelers won that waterlogged final game 24-0. Thus putting an end to the all star contest for good. For records sake, the all-stars won 9 games, lost 31 and settled for 2 ties.
Everyone thinks the "Monsters of the Midway," the Chicago Bears always played at Soldier field. That is not the case at all. As a matter of fact, the Bears didn't start using Soldier field until 1971. They played their home games at Wrigley field up until then, the same Wrigley field as the Chicago Cubs. Actually in 1959, Soldier field was home for one season to the other Chicago NFL team, the Chicago Cardinals. After that 1959 season, the Cardinals moved out of Chicago and down to St. Louis. Other tenants of the field were the Chicago Fire of the WFL (1974), the Chicago Winds of the WFL (1975), the Chicago Blitz of the USFL (1983-1984), the Chicago Sting of the NASL (1975-1976), the Chicago Enforcers of the XFL (2001) and the Chicago Fire of the MLS (1998-2005).
The field has hosted everything from religious rallies to motorcycle races, to track and field. Several Notre Dame games were played there also. Soldier field holds the record for the largest crowd ever to witness a college football game. On November 16, 1929, a crowd of 112,912 saw Notre Dame beat USC 13-12. The usual stadium rock concerts were held at Soldier field. Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam, the Grateful Dead, Mick and the boys AKA the Rolling Stones, all rocked Soldier field. On September 22, 1927, Soldier field held a championship fight which saw Gene Tunney battle the Manassa mauler, Jack Dempsey. Tunney ended up winning a unanimous decision.
When the Bears vacated Wrigley field for Soldier field, the city of Chicago built a grandstand at the end of the U shape to reduce seating capacity to 57,000. It also improved sight lines dramatically. In 1978, the bleacher seating was replaced with individual seats. By 1994, capacity had reached its peak at 66,944. When the Bears moved in, astroturf (GAG) replaced natural grass. The real green stuff wouldn't return again until 1988. The Bears have played 3 NFC championship games here. It was the site of the infamous "fog bowl" playoff game on New Year's Eve 1988. Dense fog left visibility down to 10 yards and the Bears beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-12.
After the 2001 football season, the stadium was closed for a total renovation. Over the next two years, Soldier field was gutted and rebuilt. In the 2 years of construction, the Bears played their home games down I-57 at Memorial stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois. A lot of people hated the new design, calling it everything from a space ship to a God awful work of art gone bad. Truth be told, the old field was in need of a major overhaul. It didn't have any of the modern touches all the new stadiums have. Now it does. The jury is still out on the new Soldier field.
Soldier field from the Sears tower. 3/87
Map of Soldier Field. Photo from internet.
The south entrance to Soldier field. 3/87
Inside the dark, dank corridors of Soldier field. 3/87
Concession stands under the stadium. 3/87
More concourse shots. A concession stand is closed for the season. 3/87
The famous columns and luxury boxes. 3/87
Heading to Soldier field off Lakeshore Drive. 9/91
A cold grey day and Soldier field from the south parking lot. 9/91
Soldier field from Lakeshore Drive. 9/91
A Monday night football game, Bears vs. Jets. 9/91
Luxury boxes ring the top of Soldier field. 9/91
The NEW Soldier field from Burnham harbor. 7/03
Construction is almost complete. 7/03
Soldier field from the south end zone. 7/03
The NEW Soldier field and the Chicago skyline from Burnham harbor on Lake MIchigan. 7/03