The original 1924 Soldier Field structure was intended to serve events including track and field, football, auto racing and public assemblies, but it never fully responded to the different needs of its varied users, becoming home to the Chicago Bears in 1971. Compared to other NFL facilities, the stadium had a poor seating configuration, few amenities, primitive concessions and restrooms, and small, archaic suites. It was an outdated stadium surrounded by 66 acres of paved parking before a joint venture of two firms revitalized the site: Ben Wood, now Principal of Studio Shanghai and Carlos Zapata, now Principal of Carlos Zapata Studio, with primary responsibility for the architectural design of the Soldier Field stadium; and Goettsch Partners (formerly Lohan Caprile Goettsch), with primary responsibility for the master plan and North Burnham Park project.
The concept—not replicating the old facility but creating a modern stadium within the confines of the historic structure—juxtaposes the historic colonnades against a contemporary steel-and-glass stadium with an asymmetrical shape, featuring four levels of skybox suites and club seating on one side and cantilevered grandstand seating on the other. The long spans and cantilevers used throughout accommodate the existing structure’s width and ensure unobstructed views while adding a sense of movement.
The Bears now play on natural turf heated from below, and the team’s training and dressing rooms are modernized. Stadium amenities for fans feature added and enhanced restrooms and concessions, 62,000 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. The surrounding 17 acres of landscaped parkland include a veterans sculpture and water wall, a children’s garden, a police memorial garden, a winter garden, and a sledding hill. Chicago residents and visitors now enjoy year-round access to the historic colonnades, a new boulevard for improved vehicular circulation, underground parking, the expanded parkland, and a more cohesive and welcoming campus that connects to the adjacent Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
Architect of Record: Goettsch Partners