Chicago Bears Traditions

Soldier Field History

Historical timeline

After playing 31 years along the lakefront a brief one-year hiatus from Soldier Field while the new stadium was being constructed within its historic colonnades, the Bears have returned to their stadium by the Lake. The Bears first season at Soldier Field was in 1971 after spending 50 seasons at Wrigley Field. Soldier Field was opened in 1924 as a 45,000-seat Municipal Grant Park Stadium. The first football game played on its field was November 22, 1924, as a capacity crowd watched Notre Dame edge Northwestern, 13-6.

It hosted the first boxing event which drew a gate of over $2.5 million (Dempsey-Tunney, 1927), the first ski meet held in a stadium, and the all-time largest football crowd (123,000). The largest crowd for any event in Soldier Field was 260,000 on Sept. 8, 1954, for the Catholic church's Marian Year Tribute.

The 100,000-seat stadium was dedicated November 27, 1926, with Army battling Navy to a 21-21 tie. The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000 plus was established Nov. 26, 1927 as Notre Dame beat Southern Cal 7-6. In the first professional game at the then-mammoth stadium, the Bears defeated the Chicago Cardinals 10-0 on November 11, 1926.

Plans for the stadium started in 1919 as a memorial to the soldiers of WWI. Soldier Field stood on 10,000 pile foundations driving an average depth of 62.5 feet through fill that replaced the lake waters. The new stadium continues to be owned, maintained and operated by the Chicago Park District.

Other stadium notes since the Bears moved to Soldier Field:
1971 -   September 19th, Chicago defeats the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-15 before capacity crowd of 55,701 in the Bears' first game since moving from Wrigley.
1979 -   The stadium undergoes major reconstruction and renovation prior to the season including new lighting, playing surface, and locker rooms; rebuilding of seating area (new chairbacks, armrests, seats); and improvement of sightlines.
1982 -   Additional rebuilding of seating areas was completed as well as new concourses with more restrooms and concession areas. A new press box, 60 deluxe skyboxes, and a new scoreboard were also built. Capacity is increased to 66,030.
1988 -   Surface was changed from artificial turf to natural grass, and 56 skyboxes were added along south rim (increasing the total to 116). Capacity is increased to 66,946.
1992 -   Four seats are added increasing the capacity to 66,950.
1994 -   The Park District spends millions to refurbish the stadium for the World Cup soccer tournament. Capacity is reduced by six to the current figure of 66,944.
2000 -   Mayor Daley announces Lakefront Redevelopment Project (11/15).
2001 -   Project receives state and city approval.
2002 -   Demolition begins on stadium immediately following playoff game (1/19).
2003 -   Bears return to Soldier Field with Monday night re-opening on September 29 against Green Bay.