Soldier Field, formerly Municipal Grant Park Stadium, is home to the NFL's Chicago Bears. The stadium itself is found in Chicago, Illinois, located close to downtown Chicago and the Museum Campus. As of 2008, it is considered to be the smallest stadium in the NFL. Renamed Soldier Field in 1925, the venue has been host to a variety of events, including the FIFA World Cup and countless concerts with stars such as Bon Jovi, the Grateful Dead, and U2. At one point, Soldier Field was home to the NASCAR Grand National, but this was a onetime only event held in 1956. It was also the site of the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966, where Dr. Martin Luther King and many other people held a rally for equal rights.
The design for Soldier Field was decided in 1919, when Holabird and Roche won an architectural competition to decide upon a structure to honor American soldiers killed in action. Construction began in 1922 with the venue's completion in 1924. It opened in October 1924 on the 53rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. The first football game held at Soldier Field was between Louisville Male High School and Chicago Austin High School. Soldier Field was built by the South Park Commission. Soldier Field initially cost $10 million to build, but has undergone $600 million in renovations over the last 80+ years. The venue is owned by the Chicago Park District/City of Chicago and is maintained and operated by SMG.
Interestingly enough, Soldier Field wasn't home to the Chicago Bears until 1971. With their move to the stadium, the natural grass field was changed to AstroTurf, but was returned to a natural surface again in 1988, and has been that way since. Initially, the open-roofed stadium had a seating capacity of 45,000. Over the years, this grew to its current capacity of 61,000. Still, the largest event held in the venue more than quadrupled this, with 260,000 people attending the 1954 Catholic Church's Marian Year Tribute.
Many areas of the venue are available for rent for those looking to host a special event. Soldier Field also offers public as well as private tours for those looking to explore the historical site.
Over the years, Soldier Field has undergone a number of changes. Now, patrons can find a number of Chase ATMs throughout the stadium. Soldier Field also offers almost twice as many restrooms as it did before the upgrade, and boasts 14 family restrooms on top of it.
The architecture of Soldier Field is modeled after the Greco-Roman tradition with a number of columns. Of course, due to the expansion and need to keep the stadium modernized, these pillars are overshadowed by the size of the stands. The stadium also chooses to honor past football legends who played for the Chicago Bears with memorials all about the venue, commemorating the sports heroes. In 1984, the stadium was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Soldier Field was considered a National Historic Landmark until 2003, where its renovations modernized the venue beyond what could be considered to be a Historic Landmark.
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