CHICAGO – Once again, Chicago’s Soldier Field, the city’s primary outdoor venue is at the center of people’s attention because of potential changes to improve it.
The latest came from Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday, as she looks to find a way to entice the Bears to stay at Soldier Field with three potential plans: One for a dome immediately, one for a dome in the future, or one as a primary soccer/entertainment venue.
This is being done as the Bears are finishing up the details on a purchase agreement on the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights and exploring the potential of building a stadium there.
As another renovation is proposed, it is a good time to look back at the transformation the nearly 100-year old venue has undergone through the years.
The stadium was dedicated as Municipal Grant Park Stadium on October 9, 1924 and was renamed Soldier Field on November 11, 1925 in memory of soldiers who died in World War I.
After its opening, it hosted everything from football games to boxing matches and even a NASCAR Cup race in 1956. Numerous concerts have been played at the stadium while also being a site for political and religious events over the last century.
The Chicago Cardinals of the NFL called the stadium home for the 1959 season before the Bears made their permanent move from Wrigley Field starting with the 1971 season. The stadium has served as home to a few others football teams in other leagues along with professional soccer, including the NASL’s Sting (1975-1976) and Chicago Fire FC (1998-2005, 2020-present).
Renovations were done to close in the north end zone and eventually add skyboxes following the Bears’ arrival, with capacity in this new configuration reaching a high of 66,994 in 1994.
Starting in January of 2002, the stadium underwent a major $632 million renovation which was completed in September of 2003 that reduced capacity to 61,500. That’s the way the stadium has looked to this day as the city once against debates a new plan to renovate the venue ahead of its 100-year anniversary in order to keep the Bears in the city limits.