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, on July 25, 2022 then-Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled plans to redevelop Soldier Field. 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?

The main goal of the initiative was to encourage the Bears to abandon their plans to build a new facility in the suburbs and remain in downtown Chicago. However, the Bears continued to push their vision of moving to Arlington Heights after the presentation of the Soldier Field redevelopment project, and on September 6, 2022 they even presented a preliminary concept for the development of the Arlington International Racecourse grounds.

In mid-2023, the Bears began sending signals that the option of building a stadium in Arlington Heights was not yet a foregone conclusion. The team was not satisfied with the amount of property taxes they would have to pay once a new stadium was built, and negotiations on the issue were not yielding satisfactory results.

At the end of 2023, it was reported that one of the options being considered was a site adjacent to Soldier Field, where the new stadium would be built (once it was built, Soldier Field would be demolished). Since early 2024, there have been further reports confirming this location as the preferred site by the team, and on April 24, 2024, the concept for a new stadium to be built at this site and replace Soldier Field was officially unveiled.

With the Bears presenting an entirely new design, it appears that the vision of rebuilding Soldier Field is unlikely to happen at this point, and the concept presented in 2022 by the then mayor will not be implemented. Nevertheless, the primary goal of keeping an NFL team in downtown Chicago has a good chance of being fulfilled.

However, since the vision for a new stadium that has been shown is quite ambitious and may face various difficulties in implementation, no option, including a return to plans to move out to the suburbs or just stay at Soldier Field and carry out its modernization, can be ruled out.



Related news