Located just off Lake Shore Drive, Chicago’s historic Soldier Field home of the Chicago Bears. Chicago is one of the nation’s best cities when it comes to professional sports. The fans are loyal, the stadiums are legendary, and the championships have been many (well, for the most part).
Among Chicago’s many historic sports stadiums stands Soldier Field, home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears. The franchise has been around since 1919 and was an inaugural member of the NFL a year later. The Bears dominated in the league’s early days, with four championships in just six years. Famous Bears include Red Grange, Sid Luckman, Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, and Walter Payton. Although the Chicago Bears, play at Soldier Field, that was not always the case (Games were played at what is now Wrigley Field from 1921-1970). In 1924, Soldier Field was erected and named Municipal Grant Park Stadium, but the name was soon changed to honor those who served in WWI.
The Chicago Bears relocated to Solider Field in 1971. Because Soldier Field was not originally built for football, extensive renovations were completed in 1982. A few short years later, the 85 Bears stormed through the league on their way to Super Bowl XX victory in New Orleans. Led by Coach Mike Ditka and his quarterback Jim McMahon, the Bears went 15-1 in the regular season before defeating the New England Patriots by a score of 46-10 to win the Super Bowl.
The Bears are one of the few NFL teams that do not have cheerleaders—although that was not always the case. The Honey Bears led the cheering at Soldier field starting in 1977, but they were not asked back after the 1985 season, as ownership decided cheerleaders were not an appropriate aspect of family entertainment. The team does employ an official mascot. Since 2003, Staley Da Bear (named in honor of the team’s original founder) has energized the crowd at Soldier Field and participated in numerous citywide events such as his First and Goal program, which was created to educate kids about healthy lifestyles.
In 2000, plans were announced for the new Soldier field. The modern upgrade to the aging facility came with a whopping $587 million price tag, and was completed in time for the 2003 season. The new Soldier Field opened on September 29th of that year, when the Bears played host to their long-time division rivals—The Green Bay Packers. The stadium is located off Lake Shore Drive next to Museum Campus (410 S Museum Campus Drive), and has a seating capacity of 61,5000. In addition to Bears games, Soldier Field has hosted many historic events including the Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney championship boxing match in 1927. Thus, it is both a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places.
On select days, Soldier Field offers a 45-minute official tour where guests can see the courtyards, statues, concourse, colonnades, sky suites, and visitor’s locker room. But the best way to see Soldier Field is go come experience the frenzy of game day. Game days are huge events for the team’s rabid fans. Guests should plan to dress warmly, leave extra time for the commute, and arrive early enough to tailgate in the Stadium’s parking lots.
by Zach Baliva