Column: Chicago’s love-hate relationship with Soldier Field begins once more with a brand new Bears season


Chicago Bears President Ted Phillips promised a “first-class experience” for followers on the proposed domed stadium in Arlington Heights.

That, after all, can be a major improve from the third-class expertise of attending video games at Soldier Field, the stadium Chicagoans have had a love-hate relationship with because the Bears made what was referred to as a “temporary” transfer to the lakefront venue 51 years in the past.

We’ve spent most of our lives watching the Bears lose and listening to Bears executives talk about moving to a new home. This 12 months seems to be no completely different.

Phillips and Chairman George McCaskey spoke at a city assembly Thursday in Arlington Heights a few plan to go away Soldier Field for a much bigger, higher facility with local weather management, parking, close by eating places and sports activities betting amenities, and little question a brand new Bear Raid siren to blast out the neighbors.

It’s the beginning of an extended course of, simply because it was in 1978 when former Bears President George “Mugs” Halas Jr. threatened to go away Soldier Field as a result of the staff’s complaints to the Chicago Park District concerning the facility fell on “deaf ears.”

“I think it’s time we started taking off the gloves,” Halas instructed the Tribune’s Don Pierson. “Maybe we’ve been quiet too long.”

The gloves are off once more, and this time the Bears imply enterprise.

But with so many logistics but to be decided, most notably the funding, it will likely be years earlier than Bears followers may even consider escaping the unfriendly confines of Soldier Field for a new state-of-the-art stadium in Arlington Heights.

Nevertheless, one other season of Bears soccer is upon us, so it’s time to ponder one other season of coping with the inconveniences of going to Soldier Field. It nonetheless is tough to get into and out of, the traces are impossibly lengthy and the meals decisions are about as diverse as a highschool recreation.

The aggravation issue tends to be multiplied if the staff is dangerous, and most have pegged the Bears for 10 or more losses within the first 12 months of the Ryan Poles-Matt Eberflus regime. Other than Justin Fields’ preseason, the most important shiny spot has been the installation of Bermuda grass at the behest of Eberflus, who might be in competition for Groundskeeper of the Year if his suggestion works on the stadium with the perpetually plagued sod.

Many overlook that the Bears had been supposed to go away Soldier Field for a brand new stadium many years in the past. Owner George “Papa Bear” Halas agreed on May 13, 1971, to a three-year lease with the Chicago Park District, with two one-year choices.

“The Bears view the move to Soldier Field as purely temporary — an interim measure taken of necessity until a new city stadium can be constructed,” a Tribune report stated. “Halas said his target date for a new stadium is three years, but the two successive one-year options were tacked onto the agreement just in case.”

Good concept.

The remainder of the story is lengthy and entails a number of politicians and members of the Halas-McCaskey clan starting from Papa Bear and Halas Jr. to Michael and George McCaskey.

To make an extended story brief — they muffed the punt. No new stadium was ever constructed within the 5 many years because the authentic contract, and each stadium proposal has been doomed to failure.

The Bears as soon as thought of a transfer to outdated Comiskey Park in 1978 whereas renovations had been made at Soldier Field. Nope.

In 1995 staff President Michael McCaskey thought of a proposal to relocate the staff to Gary, Ind., in addition to constructing the “McDome” — a multipurpose facility subsequent to McCormick Place. Not an opportunity.

Ultimately, the reworked Soldier Field that opened in 2003 was touted because the equal of a contemporary facility with the identical cool structure inside. But it quickly turned a punchline for its weird design that minimized the basic Greek columns and has an absence of facilities. And naturally, it was nonetheless not possible to get out and in.

Soldier Field’s life-span now can be shortened by a number of years due to the Bears’ plan to flee to the suburbs. There are solely so many soccer matches, concert events and school soccer video games to schedule in any given 12 months, and as soon as the Bears depart it’ll exist like a basic outdated restaurant deserted throughout the pandemic.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed placing a dome over Soldier Field, a last-ditch try to steer the McCaskeys to stay round with one more facelift. They’ve determined to disregard any transforming plan, having already made the choice to discover shopping for the Arlington Heights property. So Soldier Field ultimately will develop into the Chicago model of the Roman Colosseum, solely with a pretend spaceship crashing into the empty stadium as an alternative of crumbling colonnades.

The panacea of the “first-class” stadium expertise is one thing Phillips and the Bears alluded to throughout the authentic transforming plan greater than 20 years in the past. We gained’t know till an Arlington Heights plan is accomplished if that’s really the case.

Is the grass greener in Arlington Heights? Or will the Bears transfer be the equal of changing the sod at Soldier Field from Kentucky bluegrass to Bermuda?

Planning consultants instructed a crowd of residents Thursday they plan to have places of work, retail, flats and townhomes, a resort and a sports activities betting enterprise close to the brand new, domed stadium.

Well, you possibly can by no means have sufficient workplace buildings in an period when staff are more and more working remotely, or sufficient sports activities betting amenities in an age wherein gamblers can use their telephones to wager on video games from the consolation of their sofa.

And Bears Villages or Halas Hollow — or no matter they’ll wind up naming the proposed group — ought to be high quality to dwell in so long as you’re OK with an air raid siren going off a dozen or so occasions throughout house video games.

Since it’ll take years for the Bears to implement their plan, we’ll nonetheless have the ability to have fun the a centesimal anniversary of the primary soccer recreation at Soldier Field throughout the 2024 season. The new stadium with the basic columns, then referred to as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, performed host to a Notre Dame-Northwestern recreation on Nov. 22, 1924.

Tribune sports activities author Wallace Abbey previewed the sport by noting that coach Knute Rockne’s Irish, thought of the perfect staff within the nation with the legendary “Four Horsemen,” would have their arms full due to the poor area situations.

“It is probable that in the mud which will greet the team today Notre Dame will be at a slight disadvantage,” he wrote.

The Irish squeaked out a 12-6 win earlier than a crowd of greater than 35,000.

The recreation of soccer has modified fairly a bit over the past 98 years, and Soldier Field has undergone many facelifts since that first recreation.

But no less than we’ve new sod for the outdated place.

Better days are forward.



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