Column: Saving Soldier

Jake Pfeiffer, News Editor & Copy Editor

My family has had Chicago Bears season tickets for practically my whole life. I’ve been going to several games a year for as long as I can remember, all hosted at Soldier Field.

It seems more and more likely that I will soon never be able to see the Bears play at Soldier’s ever again. According to ABC 7 Chicago, the team finalized their purchase of the Arlington Heights race track on Feb. 15, where they will presumably build a new multi-billion dollar stadium.

And while there is no guarantee that a new stadium will be built, the Bears newly-hired CEO Kevin Warren announced that the Bears “are not considering any options to stay at Soldier Field,” according to CBS.

The Bears are almost definitely gone. The question for the city of Chicago now becomes what to do with Soldier Field.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a plan to revitalize Soldier Field and the area surrounding the stadium in July 2022, according to the Chicago Tribune

The renovations would add a domed roof to Soldier Field, among other new features, and cost the city $2.2 billion.

As someone who loves shiny new sports stadiums, it really hurts me to say it but Chicago simply cannot do this. 

To start, Soldier Field is a historic landmark; while this new proposal wouldn’t harm the parts of the building that must be preserved, they would completely dwarf the iconic pillars of the stadium, hanging over them and overshadowing the facade of the building. 

Regardless of the status of Soldier Field though, the plan’s largely glass structure doesn’t go with any of the structures surrounding the stadium on the museum campus. 

The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium are all over 90 years old, and their design and architecture largely reflects that: large stone bricks, smaller windows and a style that screams “1930s.”

If, as Lightfoot said, a sprawling entertainment district is meant to pop up on the museum campus, the historical weight of the area will be completely smothered. A massive glass dome will overshadow Soldier Field. New parking lots, businesses, and public transit will blanket the area, limiting green space and crowding the three museums.

The campus is beautiful, but that beauty comes from the green space, the history of the land and the buildings on that land. 

That’s not to say I don’t like modern buildings- The Chicago skyline is beautiful, but it is a very different beauty from the museum campus.

And the economic benefits of such a plan? Well, they may not really be a thing.

According to the University of Michigan Journal of Economics, cities usually don’t see much of a return on investment when renovating old stadiums. 

The added capacity the proposed renovation provides is also useless. While Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL, according to NBC Sports, it is the largest place concerts are usually held in Chicago. As for other teams that could call Soldier Field home, the Chicago Fire have an average attendance of just over 15,000 – less than a quarter of Soldier’s occupancy. 

If the Bears leave, there is simply no need for the added capacity the renovation will provide.

This renovation is wholly unnecessary, and will smother what makes the museum campus such a unique area of Chicago. The city needs to save Soldier’s, and make sure this renovation doesn’t happen.