History and Renovation of Soldier Field
Soldier Field is an attraction for thousands throughout the state of Illinois. Soldier Field was first built in 1924 as a multipurpose sport arena dedicated to war veterans. At the time it was known as Municipal Grant Park Stadium. Municipal Grant Park Stadium was home to many events before the Chicago Bears came to play in 1971. A controversial renovation was proposed in 1986. The cost would be over 660 million dollars. If renovated, Soldier Field would be stripped of its National Landmark Status. There were many renovations and extensions added in 2001. Soldier Field, home to the famousChicago Bears, it has gone through many renovations but it still remains an attraction for sports enthusiasts.
Municipal Grant Park Stadium now known as Soldier Field was built in 1924 to dedicate those who served in War World I. Municipal Grant Park Stadium was built as a multipurpose sports venue. It held many events such as ski-jumping competitions, Dempsey vs. Tunney, musical concerts, religious gatherings, and World Cup soccer. The main event for Municipal Grant Park Stadium was stock car racing. It was not until the NFL ruled that stadiums must seat over 50,000 people that the Chicago Bears began to play in Soldier Field.
In 1971, the Chicago Bears began to play in Soldier Field. The founder of the Chicago Bears, George Halas, never thought Soldier Field would be the permanent field for the Bears. Later in the 1970's, George Halas announced the team would look into building a stadium in Arlington Heights. In the late 1970's if the team were to move to the suburbs they were under obligation to change their name to 'Arlington Heights Bears' (Roy Taylor). George Halas was a business man and if the Chicago Bears were then moved to Arlington Heights profit would be lost and the name “Chicago Bears” could not be taken when moved to the suburbs. After the discussion with Mayor Richard Daley, George Halas decided on staying in Chicago. A twenty year lease was signed and in 1982 there was talk about a new stadium which sparked the thirteen years of stadium talk in Chicago.
In 1995, the Chicago Bears Organization planned on playing in a new stadium by 2000 no matter what cost. On November 22, 2000, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Bears formally unveiled their plan for the new stadium at Soldier Field. It was said that the plan would cost over 660 million dollars. Approximately 200 million dollars would be funded through public funding. Some money would also be provided through the NFL. The rest of the money would have to be raised by the Chicago Bears Organization themselves. The overall cost of the renovation is about 700 million dollars.
The stadium itself cost over 300 million dollars alone. Add all the extensions built during the renovation and now Soldier Field is worth over 700 million dollars. The Chicago Bears had a tough time raising money to rebuild Soldier Field. After all the money was raised the Bears were still short a million dollars. They then applied for a loan which was accepted. While all this was happening the Chicago Bears were issued many warnings and threats that Soldier Field's National Landmark Status would be obliterated if Soldier Field was renovated.
Before the renovation of Soldier Field, the Chicago Park District warned multiple times that if renovated, Soldier Field would lose its National Landmark Status. Other landmarks that have National Landmark Status include the White House, Monticello, and the Empire State Building. The Chicago Bears ignored all these threats and warnings. The Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois sued to block the renovation. The lawsuit went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court and then lost. The renovation process started.
Soldier Field reopened on September 29, 2003. On September 23, 2009 Soldier Field was taken off the National Landmark List. “Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, a historic preservation advocacy group, praised the recommendation. ‘It's about time,' Fine said. ‘If you destroy the landmark, you should be punished for it" (Dardick and Mendel). Many historic features were obliterated during the renovation. Only the exterior walls and a small seating portion at the south end of the field are historic remainders. Many new and modern extensions were added to the field.
Soldier Field was dropped eighteen feet deeper to allow more seating on the sidelines. The capacity of Soldier Field is well over 100,000 fans. During the renovation 133 luxury suites and 8,600 club seats were added. There are over 60,000 seats. Four new parking complexes were built. Exclusive, luxury skyboxes were also added in the renovation.
In conclusion, Soldier Field no long retains its historic integrity. It has been renovated many times. The most recent in 2001, even though it was rid of its National Landmark Status, the extensions gave Soldier Field more popularity. Yet through its long history of events it still and always will remain a public source of attraction.