Soldier Field – Chicago Bears

by | Jan 28, 2019 | NFL, Steven Burke | 0 comments

Fanfare Score

Total Score
4.15

Crowd Score

Total Score
3.71

 

 

Bearing Down at Soldier Field

Soldier Field has been an iconic structure in Chicago since it opened in 1924 as Municipal Grant Park Stadium but would change its name as a memorial to U.S. soldiers who had died in combat during the First World War one year later. However, it would be another 47 years before the Chicago Bears would officially use it as its home field.

The Bears played at Wrigley Field from 1921-1970 but had to switch venues due to post AFL-NFL merger requirements of all venues being 50,000 or more. Wrigley had a capacity of around 41,000 and was designed as a ballpark and did not have floodlights. The Bears looked at Ryan Stadium on the campus of Northwestern but opted for the much larger venue that had a seating capacity of 74,280. 

Soldier Field has hosted a wide range of gridiron games during its history. Notre Dame football used it as its home field for three games in 1929 and attracted crowds of 90,000 and 112,912 to see the Irish beat Wisconsin and USC during the programs undefeated National Championship season. The old Chicago Cardinals used the stadium as home on multiple occasions until relocating to St. Louis after the 1959 season. The stadium also hosted the annual Chicago College All-Star Game that was held annually between 1934 to 1976 and a myriad of renegade and springtime football leagues from the AAFC, the USFL, and the XFL.

The stadium’s interior was mostly demolished and rebuilt as part of a major renovation project in 2002, which modernized the facility, widened concourses, created tier seating, and significantly lowered seating capacity. The Bears would temporarily play at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois as $632 million worth of renovations were being installed at Soldier Field. Bears founder George Hallas was a graduate of Illinois and used the school colors for his NFL club.

The venue’s Neoclassical style with Doric columns, rising above the east and west stands were left intact after the renovation process and many soon called it a “spaceship design” wedged in between the existing exterior. The capacity was brought down to 61,000 seats and fans were now able to enjoy the comforts of 21st-century football experience.

Food & Beverage 4

Soldier Field has vastly improved its concession items of recent years offering basic stadium items, local Chicago favorites, and a few specialty items that are worth enjoying while at the game.

DMK Burger Bar is a local burger chain featuring grass-fed burgers and gourmet fries, Country BBQ is a local establishment that serves up briskets and ribs, JP’s Grill is known for its brats, local chain Buona Beef is the spot for Italian beef sandwiches, Pilsen tacos, and the 1410 Gastropub offers pork tenderloin and steak sandwiches and smoked chicken wings.

The Budlong Hot Chicken stand is located in Section 340 and is known as the city’s best place for Nashville hot chicken. Au Feu is also located nearby in Section 341 and specializes in Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. Farmers Fridge is located in Section 301 and offers healthier options including salads and bowls.

There are also classic Chicago-style items including hot dogs, Polish sausage, Beggars Pizza, and Italian beef. The building also provides an array of specialty craft and cocktails in a multitude of sections including the Dr. Pepper Patio located in the south stands that includes live entertainment and new food and beverage options.

Atmosphere 4

The atmosphere is energetic with fans arriving at the stadium well ahead of game time. The traffic snarls along Lakeshore Blvd. with crowds of fans decked out in team colors or bundled up in heavy layers of clothing. The smoke from the myriad of grills fills the air in the parking lots where tailgating is alive with drinks, conversations, and a game or two of bags. There is more smoke coming from the mouths of fans braving the elements enjoying a brat or can of Old Style beer.

Fans make their way into the stadium and underneath the iconic stadium signage that has been a mainstay in the city. The blue seats fill up quickly as game time approaches. Once the game begins, the only focus that is on the field and whether the Bears are on offense or defense, the crowd is watching with intensity. When the team scores, get ready to sing along to the team’s fight song “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.”

The Midway is a climate-controlled hospitality space located on the west side of the mezzanine concourse behind sections 136 and 138. The indoor space offers a variety of seating and social gathering areas, four full-service bars, and specialty food stations. However, a separate pass must be purchased.

Neighborhood 5

Soldier Field is located along Lake Michigan south of Grant Park near the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. Grant Park includes popular tourist attractions in Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Michigan Ave, “The Magnificent Mile,” runs parallel to Grant Park and offers an array of shops, restaurants, and museums.

A little closer to the stadium includes popular choices where Bears fans grab a drink or a bite to eat. Wabash Tap offers burgers, beers, and pool; Weather Mark Tavern is a nautical theme tavern known for its lobster rolls; Kroll’s South Loop is a sports bar, and The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen is an upscale sports bar with an extensive list of taps. Flos & Santo’s is a Polish-American/pizza pub where the pierogi meets thin crust pizza.

If you are craving a Chicago deep-dish pizza, both Giordano’s has a location near the stadium and the closest craft brewery is Vice District Brewing Company. A few places for Italian beef, but not necessarily close to the stadium, are Ricobene’s Luke’s Italian Beef, and Al’s Beef

Fans 5

Bears fans are among the most faithful in the NFL and many are dressed in the team colors of navy and orange. There has been a long line of former Bears greats and it is not pausable to see their jersey worn by fans at the game. The fans are engaged, watch in unison, and are vehemently focused when the Bears are in the red zone. They focus on the game on the field and nowhere else, if you are at the game with icy conditions whipping across your face, chances are you know quite a bit about your team.  It’s always a plus when the fans sing the Bears Fight Song after a scoring drive.

Access 3

There are multiple ways of arriving at a Bears game and whether it is by mass transportation or by car, it is advised to plan early to take in all a game has to offer. Parking can cost up to $60 and train service will cost much less, especially when parking your car at park and ride stop. The team has more than much information on its transportation guide website that will assist any first time visitor.

The parking facilities surrounding Soldier Field require a parking coupon and opens four hours before the game. These lots can cost up to $60 per game and must be purchased prior to the event. There are cash lots with shuttle service three hours before the game at Grant Park North and South, Millennium Park and Lakeside Garage, and 31st Street McCormick Place for $30 to $40 prepaid and $38 to $50 on game day.  

The CTA Red, Orange, and Green Line stop nearby at Roosevelt; from here it is a short walk with legions of Bears fan to Soldier Field. The Metra trains stop closer at the Museum campus/11th Street Station where shuttle buses are available to the stadium.

Return on Investment 3

The average price of a Bears ticket is about $111 but can traject up to $236 a game depending on how well the team is doing. This past 2018-2019 season alone saw a 20 percent spike in ticket prices after a division title. All of this may be due to Soldier Field having one of the smaller capacities (third smallest in the NFL) while playing in one of the biggest markets with a strong and dedicated fan base.

The price to park your car is also among the highest in the league along with food and beverage options being comparable to other NFL venues–which are high as well. The investment takes a hit if you attend a game in either November, December, or January where the wind off of Lake Michigan produces icy temperatures at the stadium–however–some of these cold weather games could produce cheaper tickets on the secondary markets.

Extras 5

The stadium’s name has not changed in well over 90 years and is one of only seven other stadiums without a corporate moniker. Its name makes it easily identifiable, not only in the city but across the sports landscape. If there was ever a corporate naming discussion, it could result in a serious backlash from fans in the city.

The Bears official fight song “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” is played after every touchdown or field goal and is sung by everyone in the stadium. The older NFL franchises tend to have the best fight songs and its an awesome tradition to sing it at least one time with 61,000 Bears fans.

The design of the stadium is also interesting in that its exterior shell is still intact. The concourse between the 300 and 400 levels on the west side of the stadium is worth taking a walk before or after the game between the colonnades.

The stadium is located near the heart of Chicago and close to many city attractions from the Shedd Aquarium, Millennium Park, and The Magnificent Mile. If attending a game in September, the walk along Lake Michigan and other outside attractions is a perfect way to cap off a sports weekend in the Windy City.

The stadium receives a final point for upgraded food options that include Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches to local Italian beef sandwiches.

Final Thoughts

A game at Soldier Field to watch the Chicago Bears is a definite plus for any football fan, but tickets prices can be high and it is wise to plan ahead when it comes to parking. However, with proper planning and reviewing possible mass transportation options, one can “Bear Down” at the right price.

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Food and Drink Recommendations

Flo & Santos

1310 S. Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 566-9817

http://www.floandsantos.com/


Kitty O’Shea’s

720 S Michigan Ave

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 294-6860

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/hilton-chicago-CHICHHH/dining/index.html


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Entertainment Recommendations

Field Museum

1400 S. Lake Shore Dr

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 665-7693

http://www.fieldmuseum.org/


Shedd Aquarium

1200 S Lake Shore Dr

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 939-2438

http://www.sheddaquarium.org/


Do you want to add your listing on StadiumJourney.com?  Here’s how!

Lodging Recommendations

 

Chicago’s Essex Inn

800 South Michigan Ave

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 939-2800

http://www.essexinn.com/


 

Hilton Chicago

720 S Michigan Ave

Chicago, IL 60605

(312) 922-4400

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/hilton-chicago-CHICHHH/index.html


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Crowd Reviews

Latest Crowd Reviews

Date: 2017-10-31 16:40:42
By: Richard Smith

Total Score
3.71

No writeup submitted.

Stadium Info

Soldier Field
1410 Museum Campus Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

Chicago Bears website
Soldier Field website

Year Opened: 1924
Capacity: 61,500

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