The Chicago Bears have played in Chicago since 1921, and on the shores of Lake Michigan since 1971. They spent 1921-1970 sharing Wrigley Field with the Cubs but then moved to the original Soldier Field. The original building was built right outside Grant Park on the south-east end of the city along the lake. From 1971-2001 the Bears saw some great players play at the old Soldier Field including Walter Payton and Mike Singletary, all capped off with their 1985 Super Bowl championship. A report by the Chicago Tribune relayed a lot of the facts used in this article.

Soldier Field was crumbling by the turn of the century and the Bears were ready for something new. Most teams around them have built massive new stadiums with retractable roofs and modern amenities, but the Bears took another approach. Instead of building a big modern stadium which they would own, they decided to do a roughly $600 million renovation of Soldier Field. It has since been called the second "mistake by the lake."

The renovation results

The old Soldier Field was completely demolished outside of the outer walls in 2002, which hold the famous cement pillars. Within that old exoskeleton landed a spaceship, or so it seems. The new stadium opened in 2003 and it got a lot of mixed reactions.

Soldier Field now features an awkward bowl-shaped seating structure which gets very steep in the upper areas. The bathrooms and concession stands are very hard to access if one is sitting up high and the concourses themselves are very plain with little character. While the skyboxes are very luxurious, most of the stadium is very bland.

Those are not the biggest problems, there are much bigger issues. For starters, the capacity of the new Soldier Field is one of the smallest in football at 61,500. Not only does it not make sense to have a small stadium for one of the biggest fanbases in sports, but it also prohibits the stadium from hosting a number of events, such as the Super Bowl.

The lack of a retractable roof also hurts the stadium from hosting events like Big 10 basketball and having to worry about the inclement weather for any event.

One of the biggest problems for the players themselves is the grass field. The Chicago Bears still do now own the stadium, they rent it from the Chicago Park District. The turf is among the worst in the NFL as it gets torn up and frozen easily, which results in players slipping around and getting hurt. The CPD just does not provide a state-of-the-art surface that has hybrid grass/turf with a heating system underneath it like Lambeau Field does. It is basically going out to a sloppy park and playing NFL football on it. The Bears cannot take matters into their own hands with the turf, or the concourse, or even place commemorative statues around the stadium because they do not own the place.

Missed opportunity

The Bears are stuck with their renting of Soldier Field for a number of years and looks like nothing will change there. They are stuck by the lakeside where it is very difficult for fans to get to and park and makes traffic an absolute nightmare. The Chicago Bears are worth over $2 billion and they rent one of the smallest NFL stadiums which lack so many things other stadiums have now, even in smaller markets.

This franchise could have gone away from the lake and built a massive palace somewhere west of the city. A big retractable roof featuring 80,000 plus seats with all the modern amenities and opportunities to attract major sporting events. Also, playing on a surface that is not a muddy mess would be nice for the players.

There seems to be this idea that fans love the "Bear weather" aspect of playing outside in the cold, along with the nostalgia of Soldier Field. The stadium and field which Payton and the 1985 Bears played on are gone. The renovations, more or less, completely rebuilt the stadium, which gives it almost no sentimental value. Not to mention the great George Halas and all his pre-Super Bowl champion winners played at Wrigley Field, so it is not like the entire history of the franchise rests between the concrete pillars.

This is a blunder that cannot be corrected for a while.

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