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1410 Museum Campus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Located in the Windy City, along the shore of Lake Michigan is Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears. Soldier Field was built in the 1920s and over the decades has seen a little of everything: Army-Navy games, the Dempsey-Tunney fight, political rallies. But for most of its history there weren’t any Bears games; the Monsters of the Midway played at Wrigley Field for 50 years before moving to Soldier Field in 1971. It’s part of the team’s identity now, though, and they have a shiny new stadium crammed down between the old classic columns on the same lakefront site. The new Soldier Field has come in for devastating architectural critiques – looks like a UFO landed on top of the columns – and it is the smallest NFL stadium, which is somewhat surprising considering the vast fan base. Once inside, though, there are excellent sightlines, more spacious seats than the old place and food and beer within easy reach.
Because the Chicago Bears and Soldier Field have been around for so long, it’s easy to forget they spent most of their respective histories apart. The Bears played for decades at Wrigley Field, where the south end zone was up against a dugout and the north end zone was the left-field wall. (“That last guy really gave me a good lick,” said Bears legend Bronko Nagurski, after shaking off two defenders and running into the wall.) Only in 1970 did the Bears depart, having outgrown the seating capacity of the Friendly Confines.
By the time the Bears arrived, Soldier Field was 47 years old, and even by the standards of the early 1970s, it wasn’t a great venue for professional football. (In his history of the team, Richard Whittingham described the melancholy that set in among Bears fans after the move to Soldier Field, noting the low angle and distance of the seats from the field, and the winds that swallowed the roar of the crowd.) Battles commenced almost immediately between city, state, and team over facility updates, and continued with increasing acrimony over the next 30 years.
Nobody imagined that the conflict would be settled by the arrival of a giant spaceship.
Opened in 2003, a controversial renovation placed a futuristic steel-and-glass saucer between Soldier Field’s iconic colonnades. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called the renovation “a monumental eyesore” and “the monstrosity on the midway”, and the National Park Service stripped its landmark status, declaring that Soldier Field “no longer retains its historical integrity.”
Fan Author: Chris Martin / Featured Image credit: Nick Ulivieri
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