The Chicago Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971. The facility used to have AstroTurf between 1971 and 1987 before it was replaced with natural grass beginning in 1988. Since then, the playing surface at the facility has not always been up to par. The field has always looked terrific at the beginning of the season but has faded throughout the course of a season. With the team set to host the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this Sunday afternoon, the field looked to be in pristine condition on Saturday afternoon.
Prior to a television appearance, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network posted this photo of a quiet Soldier Field:
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 5, 2019
It is just one photo, but Pelissero noted the “playing surface looks to be in great shape for January” in his tweet. Sunday’s game will mark the first playoff contest at Soldier Field since the NFC Championship Game between the Bears and the Green Bay Packers in January 2011.
Soldier Field itself has been criticized over the years with the emergence of massive stadiums around the league. It is hard to argue with the views that the venue offers up, but the stadium had an opportunity to jump into modern times when it underwent renovations in the early-2000s. Instead, the stadium has an awkward look on the outside following renovations in 2003. The stadium initially opened in 1924. Outside of Bears games, it has also hosted games played by the Chicago Cardinals, University of Notre Dame and the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. The field was used during the opening ceremony of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and hosted five games. The stadium also hosted four games during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Northern Illinois University football team has played three games at the stadium in recent years with two games against the Iowa Hawkeyes and another against the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League played the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 as part of the league’s Stadium Series. Chicago won by a score of 5-1 in front of a sold-out crowd during a snowy night in March. The stadium has also hosted a variety of different musical concerts with such acts as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band and Beyonce serving as headliners.
When the stadium was renovated in 2003, Soldier Field was delisted as a National Historic Landmark and officially lost landmark status in 2006. The redesign also reduced the number of seats in the stadium. In 1994 the capacity was at 66,944 by 2003 it dropped to 61,500. The Bears have tried to make life easier for those fans in the stadium with improvements to the foot vendors and with in-stadium WiFi availability.
In 2018, the fans have helped make Soldier Field a true home-field advantage for the Bears. The team went 7-1 during the regular season at home and will be hoping for similar results this Sunday against the Eagles.