Soldier Field

Capacity70 000
Country United States of America
ClubsChicago Bears, Chicago Fire
CategoryDesign awaiting implementation
Cost$2.2 B


Soldier Field – design description

Why are the Chicago Bears planning to move out of Soldier Field?

In 2021, the Chicago Bears, a NFL team, showed interest in buying a horse racing track in Arlington Heights, a far suburb of Chicago, about 25 mi (40 km) from the centre of the metropolitan area. On September 21, 2021, an agreement was signed (the deal was finalized in early 2023), with the Bears planning to build a new stadium for their team at the site of Arlington International Racecourse.

The Chicago Bears have played since 1971 at Soldier Field, a stadium located near the heart of downtown on the Lake Michigan waterfront. The location close to downtown, while having a lot of advantages, also creates access problems and limits the possibility of building additional commercial facilities around the arena.

The venue, having been completely rebuilt in 2002-2003, has an interesting modern form, with the stands located very close to the field, although with a capacity of 61,500 spectators it is currently the smallest stadium in the NFL. Following the construction of some very expensive, ultra-modern stadiums in recent years, such as SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium, which opened in 2020, other teams in the league, including the Bears, have also started to think seriously about improving their infrastructure.

What plans have been unveiled for the redevelopment of Soldier Field?

In response to the Bears' plans to move to a distant suburb, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled plans to redevelop Soldier Field in the summer of 2022. Three options were presented. The first, and most spectacular, involves rebuilding the stands behind the ends of the field, where four massive columns are to be built to support a huge glass roof covering the stands and the field.

The second option, similar to the first, also involves rebuilding the stands behind the ends of the pitch with the creation of four columns, but under this scheme the giant roof could be built as an option, at a future date. The third option, the most cost-effective, involves upgrading the facility to make it better suited to hosting soccer matches, as well as concerts and other non-sporting events.

The most impressive is certainly the first option, which involves fully roofing the facility. Under the canopy, directly above the pitch, a circular, panoramic screen would be installed, similar to the one at SoFi Stadium, albeit slightly smaller in scale. The facility would not be fully enclosed - the space between the roof and the stands behind the ends of the pitch is to remain open.

With the first two options, the capacity of the arena would increase to 70,000 spectators. The plan also includes an increase in the number of boxes and catering outlets. The modernisation is also expected to help attract sponsors, including a title sponsorship for the stadium. The cost of the redevelopment, depending on the option adopted, is estimated to be between $900m and $2.2bn.

What will be the future of Soldier Field?

While the main goal of the initiative undertaken is to encourage the Bears to abandon plans to build a new facility and remain at Soldier Field, the mayor is announcing the redevelopment regardless of the decision made by the team. There is no specific information yet on the financing of the project, although the mayor argues that staying at Soldier Field will be cheaper for the Bears than building a new facility. Despite the proposals presented, however, the Bears declare that the move is a foregone conclusion.

In the event of an NFL team moving out, option three is the most likely to be pursued, with MLS soccer team Chicago Fire becoming the main user of the stadium, playing there again from 2020, although other tenants and options for more intensive use of the facility for non-sporting events will also be sought.



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