About Soldier Field Stadium
Soldier Field is a stadium located in Chicago, Illinois. Currently the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, the stadium has been utilized for over sixty years for many events. Originally named Municipal Grant Park Stadium, the facility was renamed as a memorial in honor of U.S. soldiers that died in battle.
Plans were first drawn up for a stadium on the lakefront in 1919 and ground was broken in 1922. Municipal Grant Park Stadium officially opened on October 9, 1924 with the intention of hosting a wide variety of public events. On November 27, 1926 the stadium was formally rededicated as Soldier Field during the Army-Navy game, the only time the annual gridiron match was ever held at the stadium.
Soldier Field is located between South Lake Shore Drive and South Museum Campus Drive in Chicago, very close to Lake Michigan. Original costs for the stadium exceeded $10 million and subsequent renovations between 2001 and 2003 cost $600 million. The stadium sits on a seven-acre site and has a current capacity of 61,500, though originally the figure was 74,240. Use of the sidelines and stadium floor increases the capacity by over 30,000. The stadium field was originally grass, then astroturf from 1971 to 1987, and since 1988 is grass. Until its renovation, the structure was designated a National Historic Landmark.
In 1927, Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney boxed for the world heavyweight boxing championship at the stadium. In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke during a rally for racial injustice. In 1994, the venue served as host during the opening ceremonies and several matches of the 1994 World Cup of soccer. The Grateful Dead played their final concert as a full band in 1995 here as well.
The Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971. The stadium has the smallest capacity of any team in the NFL, but has seen many important games. NFC divisional playoffs where the team was victorious include the so-called Fog Bowl in 1988 where the Bears edged out Philadelphia 20-12 in visibility of less than 20 yards, and a 2006 win over the Seahawks that led the Bears to the Super Bowl.
After the extensive renovations were completed in 2003, a federal committee recommended that the stadium be removed from National Historic Landmark status. Though many complained of the new exterior of the stadium, just as many sung the praises of the interior. Seating and sight lines, in particular, are of good quality. Seats at the center of the field are less than 60 feet from the field, one of the shortest in the league. On the east side of the stadium, there are three decks of seating, including a club level. On the west side, there is an additional top level. The venue also offers greater access for wheelchairs, ATM machines and single luxury seats. Concourses are wide and well ventilated, bathroom stalls are numerous and concession stands are numerous.