CHICAGO — When it comes to the Bears and their home stadium, things were much different 25 years ago on Friday.
That’s when the team was getting ready to start a new era at Soldier Field in a stadium that had undergone a massive renovation over nearly two years that still creates debate today.
On September 29, 2003, the venue had its grand reopening as the Bears hosted the Packers on Monday Night Football on a cool evening in Chicago.
This came after the venue had undergone a $632 million that completely transformed the inside while adding a new look to the outside over 21 months. The latter caused plenty of controversy, with many still saying today that it looks as if a spaceship had landed inside the nearly 100-year-old venue.
A number of luxury suites were added along with different decks that actually dropped the capacity of the stadium to 61,500.
It was a welcome moment for the Bears, who were forced to play the entire 2002 season and the preseason of 2003 in Champaign, calling the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium their temporary home. After winning the NFC Central division championship in 2001, the Bears slumped to 4-12 during their season away from Chicago.
In order to make sure the venue would be ready in time, the Bears didn’t have their home opener until late September, losing to the 49ers and Vikings on the road before having a Week 3 bye.
A number of pregame ceremonies were held in tribute to the first game back at the venue, which was complete with a number of fireworks and rousing applause from the sold out crowd.
Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, and Dick Butkus were among the many alumni invited back for an on-field ceremony as a football that had ceremonially gone across the state arrived at Soldier Field.
Unfortunately, the excitement of the reopening of Soldier Field didn’t mean any change in result against the Packers at home. For the ninth-straight time, eight of which came in Chicago, Green Bay controlled the Bears on their home field.
They built a 17-0 and 24-3 lead in the first half and never looked back in a 38-23 win that sent the Bears to 0-3. They’d finish the season 7-9, which led to the firing of Dick Jauron at the end of the season.
Larry Hawley has more on the 20-year anniversary of the reopening of Soldier Field on WGN News Now in this edition of #WGNTBT, which you can watch in the video above.