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If you’ve ever been to the city of Chicago, you can’t help but notice the massive structure on the lakefront known as Soldier Field. Completed in 1924, it was initially called Municipal Grant Park Stadium. Here’s a look at the history of this iconic stadium.
It was only renamed Soldier Field in 1926 in honor of the veterans of World War I. On February 27, 1987, Soldier Field was designated a National Historic Landmark. Over the years, Soldier Field has been used for various events such as football games, rock concerts, and even monster truck rallies!
Chicago’s Soldier Field is now also home to the College Football Hall of Fame. The stadium is on Lake Shore Drive and offers stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Soldier Field is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations and attracts visitors worldwide.
Soldier Field, located on the Near South Side of Chicago, is a multi-purpose stadium that has been in operation since 1924. The stadium is best known as the home of the Chicago Bears of the NFL, but it has also served as the home of the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer (MLS) on various occasions. Soldier Field has a seating capacity of 61,500, making it one of the smallest stadiums in both the NFL and MLS. Despite its small size, Soldier Field has hosted many significant events, including the 1993 Papal visit, multiple concerts, and World Cup soccer matches.
The NFL’s Beginnings at Soldier Field
The first football game played on its field was November 22, 1924, as a capacity crowd watched Notre Dame edge Northwestern. The Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1978 after playing their home games at Wrigley Field (the home of the Chicago Cubs) for 50 years. The team had initially planned to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights but instead decided to renovate the existing stadium.
The Bears and the Chicago Park District agreed to a 20-year contract for the Bears to lease and renovate the new NFL stadium. In 2003, the stadium underwent a $365 million renovation designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Holabird & Roche that added new seating, club seats, skyboxes, suites, and improved fan amenities. Despite these changes, Soldier Field still retains its original Art Deco look and feel.
Care has been taken to preserve its classic Doric colonnades as a lasting monument to the stadium’s glorious past. In addition, a 250-foot granite-wall sculpture was erected to serve as a memorial to the men and women who have served in the armed forces. The sculpture is illuminated at night, making it a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. They compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league’s National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The franchise was founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1920 and moved to Chicago in 1921. It is one of only two remaining franchises from the NFL’s founding in 1920, along with the Arizona Cardinals, which was initially also based in Chicago.
The Bears have won nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl, and hold the NFL record for the most enshrinements in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the most retired jersey numbers. The Bears have also recorded more victories than any other NFL franchise.
Instead of astroturf, the playing field at Soldier Field is a natural grass field. The field is resodded multiple times per year with consultation from the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Fire as it is the preferred surface for football and soccer. Nine inches below the root zone, more than 20 miles of ¾-inch plastic tubing circulates warm water and glycol to prevent freezing during those cold Chicago Winters.
This heating system not only allows the turf to grow in cooler weather but also provides a consistent playing surface for both the Bears and the Fire. The Kentucky bluegrass and rye blend is specially chosen for its ability to withstand heavy usage and intense sunlight. In order to keep the field in peak condition, a team of groundskeepers work around the clock to mow, fertilize, and water the lawn. Given the importance of a high-quality playing surface, it’s no wonder that Soldier Field is often referred to as “the natural grass cathedral of football.”
Soldier Stadium Has Been Home to Notable Moments in History
The memorial stadium has seen its fair share of winning moments. It has hosted epic clashes between bitter rivals, army-navy games, high school sports, and groundbreaking events. For many fans, the stadium is a sacred place that stirs up strong emotions and memories. Here are just a few of the most notable moments that have taken place at Soldier Stadium:
- One of the most famous boxing matches of all time occurred in 1927 when Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney met for a rematch of their previous bout. The fight was known as the “Battle of the Long Count.” The fight was held at Soldier Field in front of a massive crowd and was one of the first heavyweight championship bouts to be televised. The victory was controversial, as many people felt that Dempsey had been unfairly denied a chance to win back the title. Nevertheless, the fight cemented Tunney’s place in boxing history, and it remains one of the most talked-about contests in the sport.
- On February 7, 2013, Soldier Field hosted a high school hockey game between St. Rita High School from the city’s Southwest side and Fenwick High School from suburban Oak Park. This was the first time a high school hockey game had been played at the stadium, and the event attracted a large crowd of spectators.
- The Special Olympics is an international organization that hosts athletic competitions for people with intellectual disabilities. The organization was founded in 1968, and the first games were held that year at Soldier Field in Chicago. Over 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada competed in the stadium’s track and field and swimming events.
- June 24, 1932, was a momentous day in aviation history. As part of the celebrations for George Washington’s bicentenary, Amelia Earhart took to the skies over Soldier Stadium in New York City. It was the first time a woman had flown over the city, and tens of thousands of people watched her historic flight. Today, Earhart is remembered as one of the pioneering figures of aviation. In addition to her many aviation records, she was also an advocate for women’s rights and helped to pave the way for future generations of female aviators.
- May 27, 1933, was a momentous day in the history of Chicago. Soldier Field hosted the Century of Progress World’s Fair opening ceremonies on that day. The Fair was a celebration of the city’s progress and an opportunity to showcase the latest technological advances. The Fair also had a lasting impact on the city of Chicago, helping to revitalize the lakefront and boosting the city’s economy. For many Chicagoans, the Century of Progress World’s Fair was a once-in-a-lifetime event that left a lasting impression.
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