Stadium Journey: Soldier Field

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Stadium Journey: Soldier Field
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Review originally published on Stadium Journey

Since construction began in 2002, Chicago’s Solider Field has been a target of architectural controversy.  Described by many as resembling a UFO that landed on the old Solider Field, the futuristic look has slowly gained at least partial acceptance from Chicagoans.

Although it did not become the permanent home to the Bears until 1971 (nearly 47 years after it opened), it is firmly seen as the home of the Bears.  Soldier Field has hosted boxing title bouts, college football, soccer, and concerts, along with many more events over the years.

Today, fans can enjoy great seats throughout the stadium with views of the city, lake, and museum campus.

 

FANFARE Score: 28

F ood & Beverage: 4

Soldier Field smells great from the time you get a whiff of what’s cooking in the tailgating section, right up until you sit down in your seat.  I started with an Asian culinary delight, Wow Bao. 

Bao are doughy steamed buns with BBQ pork or Teriyaki chicken inside.  There’s four to an order at the game for $8.  It was the perfect taste to share as my friend and I walked around the stadium.

Next, I couldn’t resist the smell of BBQ everywhere so picked up a pulled pork sandwich.  It was good, but didn’t blow my socks off. 

I also had a Maxwell Street Polish dog, and didn’t have to worry about my stomach for the next three hours.  My friend had a cheese pizza, which he described as above average.

To drink, you can find Miller products selling for $7.50 a piece, and many other interesting options going for $8.  I would recommend keeping it local and going with a Goose Island Honker’s Ale.  Coke products are available if you aren’t drinking alcohol.

 

A tmosphere: 5

Soldier Field is a reflective place.  Around the stadium there are numerous statues, and placards, many of which are dedicated to the memory of those who have served their country over the years.

Each time the Bears score, the familiar tune of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears,” is played with the lyrics posted on the jumbo-trons in each end zone.  It is a catchy and jubilant fight song, which all fans seem to enjoy.

Once inside Solider Field, the architecture becomes irrelevant, and it just a beautiful place to see a football game.  It is the smallest stadium in the NFL (61,500 capacity), which makes for an intimate feel and good seats throughout.

 

N eighborhood: 4

Tailgating is definitely the norm for most Bears fans, and lots fill up early with people grilling, drinking, and playing various games.  For people who want to stay indoors, the south loop of downtown Chicago is only about ½ mile away.

The Bongo room at 1152 S Wabash, offers up great breakfast, and is just a short walk to Soldier Field.  If you’re a fan of Eggs Benedict, then you will almost certainly walk away happy.

If you are looking for drinks before or after the game, then try Kitty O’Shea’s, located inside the Hilton at 720 S Michigan.  It’s about a mile walk to Soldier Field. 

Also, keep in mind that alcohol can’t be served before 11am on Sundays in Chicago, so if you are doing pre-game drinking, you’ll have to order and drink fast to be in your seat by 12 noon kickoff.

Besides the numerous bars and restaurants in the area, Solider Field is also surrounded by museums, including the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium.  Further into downtown is the beautiful, Art Institute of Chicago. 

If you want to spend some time on your feet, after a day on your rear end, any of these would be fine choices, and within walking distance.

 

F ans: 5

Sitting surrounded by Bears fans, was truly interesting.  There was a real good variety of knowledgeable fans, fantasy football talk, cheering, and drunken buffoonery. 

While I could have done without the drunken buffoonery, especially the Browns fan dressed in Ohio State garb that dumped half a beer on the head on the Bears fan in front of him, overall the fans were great.

My visit marked the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of icon Walter Payton.  During a halftime tribute the religiosity of Bears fans was most purely felt.

 Fans cheered during highlights of Payton as if they were happening live, and were absolutely silent when Walter’s widow, Connie Payton, said a few words.

 

A ccess: 3

Parking can be extremely expensive around the stadium, but there are other transportation options. 

Anyone coming into the city by train can get off at the Roosevelt stop for the red, green, or orange lines and have about a 15-minute walk to the stadium.  If you don’t plan on tailgating, I would seek out alternatives to parking in a stadium lot.

Bathrooms are fine, but can get a bit crowded during peek times like halftime (to no one’s surprise).

 

R eturn on Investment: 3

If you are lucky enough to snag tickets at face value, then the price won’t seem quite as bad.  However, for me a $150 ticket in the upper half of a 400 section seemed like a bit much. 

Add in the cost of the food and drink, and you approach $200 pretty quickly.  Now, start to imagine doing this with a family of four, and there it is, your entire vacation budget for the year.

Food does not seem outrageous, and there are affordable ways to get around parking, but for the best value, a trip to Solider Field needs to be planned out well enough in advance to try and buy tickets when they first go on sale, rather than through second hand means.

 

E tc.: 4

Once you get over the UFO-landing look of the stadium additions (which I have by the way), then this is truly a beautiful stadium where it matters most, from the inside.  There are great views and an intimate feel throughout.

This is a venue that has seen a lot over the years, and the facelift definitely did wonders for the place.

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