This redevelopment project involved a 1924 structure which was originally named Grant Park Stadium. The stadium was initially intended to serve multiple events including track and field, football, auto racing and public assemblies. In 1925, it was renamed Soldier Field in honor of WWI veterans. Although many historic events took place in the stadium, it never totally responded to the different needs of its varied users.
Soldier Field became the permanent home of the Chicago Bears in 1971. The stadium had poor seating configuration, few amenities, and primitive concessions and restrooms. From the Bears’ standpoint, Soldier Field’s existing suites were small, dated and inconsistent with other NFL stadiums. With limited use, it became an outdated stadium surrounded by 66 acres of paved parking.
The concept in the new design was not to replicate the old facility but to create a modern stadium within the historic structure. The historic colonnades are juxtaposed against a contemporary steel-and-glass stadium. The design solution was an asymmetrical shape, with four levels of skybox suites stacked on one side of the stadium and cantilevered seating bowls. The long spans and cantilevers used throughout the design accommodated the existing structure’s width and ensured unobstructed views while adding a sense of movement to the bowl.
Upon completion, the project benefited a wide constituency: the Bears, their fans, the Chicago Park District, and Chicago residents and visitors. The Bears now play on natural turf that is heated from below, and the team’s once rustic training and dressing rooms are now modernized. Stadium amenities for fans feature added and improved restrooms and concessions, more comfortable seats, improved sightlines, two 23’ x 82’ video-replay boards, 133 luxury suites, and three club lounges that overlook the historic colonnades and Lake Michigan beyond. The surrounding 17 acres of landscaped parkland includes a veterans sculpture and water wall, a children’s garden, a terraced park, a police memorial garden, a winter garden, and a sledding hill. Chicago residents and visitors are now able to enjoy year-round access to the historic colonnades, the expanded parkland, and a more cohesive and welcoming campus that connects to the adjacent Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
Note: This project was a joint venture of two architecture firms: Goettsch Partners, with primary responsibility for the master plan and North Burnham Park project, and Wood + Zapata, with primary responsibility for the architectural design of the Soldier Field stadium.