Soldier Field is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one thing it apparently isn’t is popular.
Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News recently ranked each of the NFL’s 31 current stadiums, with Soldier Field ranking among the league’s worst home fields. The home of the Chicago Bears ranked 28th, with only the home stadiums of the Chargers (StubHub Center), Raiders (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum), and Redskins (FedEx Field) checking in behind where the Monsters of the Midway reside.
“You can’t beat the location right near Lake Michigan on Chicago’s Museum Campus,” Iyer writes. “But even after a pricey renovation, it’s been hard to find the sweet spot between modernity and maturity. That’s especially in relation to the home of the Bears’ archrivals in Green Bay.”
Lambeau Field, which has been the home of the Packers since 1957, comes in as the NFL’s No. 1 stadium on Iyer’s list. Seeing the Packers beat the Bears in anything is painful, yes, even stadium rankings.
Green Bay’s home stadium is favorably compared to a must-visit baseball stadium that is “part museum, part mecca.” With that kind of description, Lambeau Field sounds like it would be football’s answer to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. That’s high praise, something that isn’t often associated with Soldier Field.
This isn’t the first criticism Soldier Field has faced, and – if we can be totally honest – likely won’t be the last. The stadium’s reconstruction seemed to miss the mark on reaching the mesh point of being a modern stadium inside a classic structure. In a 2007 story about the stadium in Chicago Magazine by Robert Sharoff, critics of the stadium used terms including “travesty” and “fiasco” to describe it. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called the re-construction an “monumental eyesore” back in April 2001.
Finding kind words about the structure wasn’t easy, but the New York Times’ review in 2003 championed the intimacy of the stadium and saw the project as something that “should be a model for cities that are looking toward architecture to strengthen their identities as contemporary cultural centers.” You see that? The refurbished Soldier Field was viewed as a potential trend-setter! Nothing like being ahead of the curve, if you ask me.
To be fair, Soldier Field isn’t all bad. The concourses are comfortable and feature highlights of legendary players, as well as memorable events that have taken place within those hallowed walls. That stuff gives the stadium a little bit of life. And once you’re inside and in your seat, the sight lines are pretty good throughout the stadium. Oh, and as was mentioned by Iyer in his review, the location along the lake isn’t too shabby either. Maybe Soldier Field should rank higher, but history and location can only have so much pull.
Admittedly, Soldier Field lags behind a healthy chunk of the NFL’s current stadiums. And while ranking so low is a blow to the ego, the hope is that the players suiting up and taking the field for the Bears will help us overlook the shortcomings of the stadium they play in.