In 2018, one writer ranked Soldier Field among the NFL’s worst stadiums.
What’s even more unfortunate is that this isn’t some sort of recent revelation.
Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called the re-constructed and renovated Soldier Field a “monumental eyesore” back in April 2001. And a 2007 story about the stadium in Chicago Magazine by Robert Sharoff, critics of the stadium used terms including “travesty” and “fiasco” to describe the renovated stadium. So with that in mind, we should, at some point, discuss a future with the Chicago Bears playing somewhere other than Soldier Field — right?
Well, Kevin Kaduk got my mind thinking about just that:
The @ChicagoBears and Arlington Heights have flirted about a stadium before.
Could they be lining up to do it again?
— Kevin Kaduk, Midway Minute (@KevinKaduk) June 24, 2020
On the heels of a suggestive tweet from Brian Hanley, an ESPN radio host and long-time Chicago sports reporter, Kaduk takes us back to a time when the Bears flirted with the idea of moving to Arlington Heights. It’s a road the Bears tried to travel before, but never went down too far for it to be considered more than a mere flirtation. But perhaps that will change in the not-too-distance future? Well, let’s take a moment to talk about that possibility.
The Bears have a lease with the Chicago Park District and Soldier Field until 2033. But as Kaduk points out, there exists a possible timeline where – at some point down the line – the remaining ownership that survives Virginia McCaskey could sell their shares of the team, pave the way for new ownership, and thus, a potential new stadium. That’s something to keep in mind for a later date. Although, the present reminder that Soldier Field isn’t a crown jewel of the sport remains.
The other thing that stuck with me was the Soldier Field experience. Primarily, the thought that a stadium that was remodeled in 2002-03 already feels out-dated. Between the seats, the space, the bathrooms, and the accessibility (thank goodness I didn’t drive or pay for parking) there is a lot left to be desired when it comes to the home of the Bears. The sight-lines are fine (there isn’t a better seat than being in the sky behind the end zone, IMO) and the columns on the exterior provide a fair amount of nostalgia. But everything else? Yikes. The Bears completed the modernization of Halas Hall this year and players/coaches have raved about it. Isn’t it about time the Bears get with the times and upgrade their den?
I can’t imagine the Bears pouring the necessary funds to properly upgrade a stadium they don’t own and won’t play in forever. So at some time in the near future, the franchise will have to tackle the possibility of building something from scratch. Ideally, something that will be considered state of the art, ahead of its time, among the upper echelon of stadiums, and will pass the test of time. That’s a lot, to be sure. However, it’s not as if Chicago’s football fans (not to mention its players) don’t deserve it.
I want to go back to that 2018 ranking for a second in attempt to really drive something home.
At the time, StubHub Center (the temporary home of the Chargers that hosts an MLS team), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (then home of the Raiders), and FedEx Field (the long out-dated home of Washington’s professional football team) were the only home stadiums that ranked below Soldier Field. That’s not the kind of company you’d prefer to keep when it comes to stadium rankings. And since the Chargers (So-Fi Stadium) and Raiders (Allegiant Stadium) are moving into new residences in 2020, that will further push the home of the Bears down the list. And as a Chicagoan with a ridiculous amount of civic pride, it pains me to think about how the home of Chicago’s football team isn’t considered among the best in the league.