Posts Tagged ‘Soldier Field’

The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers will be playing on new turf when they open the season at Soldier Field.

Bermuda grass was installed this week at the lakefront stadium instead of the stadium’s traditional Kentucky bluegrass. The Bears hope that leads to fewer issues with a surface that has long been a source of frustration for their own players and coaches as well as opponents.

Coach Matt Eberflus had input in the switch and welcomes the change.

“We feel it’s going to be a nice surface,” coach Eberflus said Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be a fast surface, which I think which lends to help us out.”

The president of the NFL Players Association blasted the choppy conditions at Soldier Field when the Bears played a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 13. The field was in rough shape following an Elton John concert a week earlier.

The new surface was installed after metal band Rammstein performed at the stadium on Saturday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday presented three options for renovating Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, but the team said it’s not interested.

Lightfoot proposed fully enclosing the stadium by rebuilding both end zones with columns that can support a dome; rebuilding both end zones with columns to make the stadium dome-ready; or modifying Soldier Field to be a multi-purpose stadium better suited for soccer.

“Any of these proposed renovations will allow Soldier Field to retain its role as an economic engine for Chicago for years to come,” Lightfoot said in a news release.

The mayor’s office estimated the costs of the three options would range from $900 million to $2.2 billion. It did not say how it would pay for any of the options.

The proposed renovations would expand seating from 61,500 seats (now the lowest capacity in the NFL) up to 70,000; increase the number of suites from 133 to 140; and quadruple concession area square footage from 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters) to 200,000 square feet (18,580 square meters), the mayor’s office said.

The Bears had no new comment on Lightfoot’s proposals but the team reiterated the same statement it issued July 7 when a panel appointed by Lightfoot recommended the city explore enclosing Soldier Field.

“The only potential project the Chicago Bears are exploring for a new stadium development is Arlington Park. As part of our mutual agreement with the seller of that property, we are not pursuing alternative stadium deals or sites, including renovations to Soldier Field, while we are under contract,” that statement said.

The team signed a purchase agreement last year for a 326-acre (131.93-hectare) site in suburban Arlington Heights, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) miles northwest of Soldier Field, that could be the site of a future stadium. President Ted Phillips has said that deal likely won’t close until early 2023, at which point the team will decide whether it’s “financially feasible to try to develop it further.”

Chicago Bears icon Mike Ditka hopes the franchise avoids a move to nearby Arlington Heights and remains in the Windy City.

“The Chicago Bears belong in the city of Chicago,” the Hall of Famer told Jim O’Donnell of The Daily Herald. “That’s it. Call me an old-timer, call me a traditionalist, whatever. They’re a Chicago institution and that should be the end of it.”

The Bears have been stationed in Chicago for nearly their entire 100-year history and have played downtown at Soldier Field since the 1970s. They recently submitted a bid to purchase Arlington International Racecourse – which sits roughly 40 minutes northwest of downtown Chicago – with intentions to construct a new stadium.

While Soldier Field is one of the most iconic stadiums in North American professional sports, it’s also one of the oldest. Soldier Field opened its doors in 1924 and last underwent significant renovations in 2003.

“Just like the Bears belong in Chicago, like coach (George) Halas had it, Arlington Park should remain a racetrack,” Ditka said. “It’s a gem, a thing of beauty. Arlington Heights is known around the world because of that racetrack. Racetrack in Arlington Heights, Bears in Chicago. That’s the end of it.”

Ditka played tight end for the Bears in the 1960s when the team was housed at Wrigley Field. He also coached the team from 1982-1992, leading the franchise to its only Super Bowl championship. Ditka became the first player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame purely as a tight end.

The 81-year-old also believes the Bears belong in an outdoor stadium rather than in a venue with a roof.

“You want to tell me that a team coming up from a warm-weather climate isn’t giving away a significant advantage to try and play in cold and rain outside in a Chicago December or January?” he said.

“You can’t practice for that kind of weather. You can’t simulate it. You’ve got to be in it. Chicago Bears football weather is a great part of the team’s legacy, and all of that legacy in Chicago in my life has been outdoors.”

Stadium negotiations between the city of Chicago and the Bears are getting personal.

Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips announced Thursday that the team recently submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, located 30 miles west of Soldier Field.

“It’s our obligation to explore every possible option to ensure we’re doing what’s best for our organization and its future,” Phillips said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the move is “clearly a negotiating tactic.”

“The Bears are locked into a lease at Soldier Field until 2033. In addition, this announcement from the Bears comes in the midst of negotiations for improvements at Soldier Field,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

“As a season-ticket holder and longtime Bears fan, I am committed to keeping the ‘Chicago’ name in our football team. And, like most Bears fans, we want the organization to focus on putting a winning team on the field, beating the Packers finally, and being relevant past October. Everything else is noise.”

Soldier Field opened in 1924. It underwent a 20-month modernization renovation that concluded in 2003.

Longtime Chicago Fire Soccer Club Chairman and Owner, Andrew Hauptman, today announced the sale of his controlling interest in the Club to Joe Mansueto. Effective immediately, Mansueto will take on the role of Chairman as sole owner of the Fire. Under Hauptman’s leadership, the Club also concluded an agreement with the Village of Bridgeview that allows the Fire to move back into the city of Chicago, and received approval from the Chicago Park District board to move toward an agreement that will enable the team to play its 2020 season at Soldier Field.

Hauptman’s term as owner ends after 12 years of impressive growth, expanded reach and development for the Club across Chicagoland. Throughout his ownership tenure, Hauptman led a strategy of expansive soccer programming and deep community engagement in addition to investment in infrastructure, management talent and world-class players. 

“What the Fire has achieved has been transformational for the Club and the city of Chicago. We’ve significantly increased soccer’s presence and built an ecosystem that rivals any club across North America,” said Hauptman. “I’m extremely proud of the positioning of the Club at this historic juncture. I know that the next step of returning to Soldier Field will make Chicago proud and I look forward to cheering on Joe, the Club and its supporters as they continue this legacy.”

“I joined Andrew as a partner because he developed a tremendous platform for continued soccer growth across Chicago and beyond. He and the entire organization have worked tirelessly to dramatically increase the profile of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, MLS and the game overall and have left a wonderful legacy for our city,” said Mansueto. “The timing of this transaction couldn’t be better as we return the world’s game to the city I love. Andrew and his family will always be part of the Fire family that he cares so very much about.”

In 2011, the Club drew a near-capacity crowd at Soldier Field when they hosted Manchester United, and in 2017, Hauptman was instrumental in bringing the sold-out MLS All-Star Game to Chicago against legendary Spanish club Real Madrid.

Since acquiring the Chicago Fire in 2007, Hauptman has made extensive investments in the first team, while also establishing deep roots across the Chicagoland community. Under his leadership, the Club built the CIBC Fire Pitch, a north side community center which serves 300,000 visitors annually and introduced Chicago Fire Rec Soccer programming for adults, which now has 20,000 participants. Additionally, the Club formed the Chicago Fire Academy, a full scholarship program for Chicago’s elite youth players and expanded the Chicago Fire Juniors program, with 11 Clubs across six states, and 16,000 players participating year-round. For its commitment and ambitious stewardship, the Club has repeatedly been recognized for its community work, having most recently won the 2019 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year award.

In 2017, Hauptman was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame as Sports Advocate of the Year.

The Bears on Wednesday announced that they will unveil statues of legendary Hall of Famers Walter Payton and George S. Halas outside of Gate 0 at Soldier Field on Tuesday, Sept. 3, two days before they kick off their centennial season by hosting the rival Green Bay Packers.

The 12-foot, 3,000-pound bronze statues were sculpted by Fisher Sculpture, while the orientation, location and scaling of the statues were designed by Populous.

“It is only appropriate that the father of professional football and the greatest player in the history of the game are being honored in this way, and perhaps no better time for the unveiling than as we kick off our centennial season,” said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. “Thank you to the Chicago Park District, Soldier Field and SMG for their support throughout the process, and to sculptor Chad Fisher for his artistry in bringing his subjects to life.”

“I know Walter would be humbled to have this honor bestowed upon him, just as Jarrett, Brittney and our entire family are,” said Connie Payton. “To say that I am enthusiastic about unveiling this statue to the city of Chicago is an understatement. What a proud moment for all of us and the city of Chicago. We’re not just Chicago Bears fans, we’re family.”

Payton, the fourth pick in the 1975 draft, spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Bears, missing only one game and retiring following the 1987 season as the league’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993 in his first year of eligibility.

Payton was voted to nine Pro Bowls, set 16 NFL records and 27 Bears marks and had his No. 34 retired. He also threw eight touchdown passes and led the NFL in kickoff returns as a rookie in 1975 with a 31.7-yard average. In 1999, the NFL renamed its Man of the Year award after Payton as a tribute to his greatness both on and off the field. The Bears legend passed away on Nov. 1, 1999 at the age of 45 due to bile duct cancer.

Payton and his wife, Connie, started the Walter Payton Foundation, which was renamed to the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation after his passing in 1999.

The Bears previously unveiled a statue of Halas on Aug. 23, 2015, at a private ceremony just outside the main entrance of Halas Hall. The statue was also created by sculptor Chad Fisher out of white bronze. It weighs 1,600 pounds and stands 8’8” on a granite base.

A Chicago native who starred at the University of Illinois, Halas was a pro football pioneer. He founded the Bears as the Decatur Staleys in 1920 and helped create what would become the NFL when he joined representatives from 10 other teams in Canton, Ohio, in September 1920 to found the American Professional Football Association.

Halas moved the Decatur Staleys to Chicago in 1921 and they were renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922. “Papa Bear” was instrumental in the growth of the fledgling league, helping it eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry and staple of American culture.

As a player, Halas was named to the NFL’s 1920s All-Decade Team. His 98-yard return of a Jim Thorpe fumble remained an NFL record for 49 years until it was broken in 1972.

Serving as Bears coach for four separate 10-year stints, Halas led the franchise to six NFL championships in 1921, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1946 and 1963. He ultimately became the winningest coach in NFL history with 324 victories, a record since surpassed by Don Shula.

Halas is a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, having been enshrined in 1963. His impact on the sport is evident in the fact that the Hall of Fame itself is located on George Halas Drive in Canton, and the NFC Championship Trophy is named after him as well.

The Chicago Fire are considering revising the team name and moving back downtown to Soldier Field, sources told ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle.

Local attorney James Vlahakis claims there are plans afoot for the Eastern Conference side to drop Fire from its moniker and rebrand as Chicago City Football Club. One source told ESPN FC that no such decision has been made.

As for SeatGeek Stadium – formerly Toyota Park – the expected mass redevelopment of the area since the Fire took residence in 2006 hasn’t occurred, so the site has been a huge financial drain for the venue owner, the Village of Bridgeview. The ground’s location 15 miles southwest of downtown Chicago has also struggled to draw fans.

The Fire played at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, between 1998-2001 and 2003-2005. A move to the 61,500-seat stadium would place the Major League Soccer franchise in an easier-to-access location and hopefully make the club more relevant in a city with two MLB teams and one each in the NFL, NHL, and NBA.