With a "packed house every week, regardless of the opponent," Bears crowds are "rabid," "usually without threatening fans of the visiting team." And though there are "tens of thousands of superfan Ted Swizerski types, running around shirtless, inhaling brats and pining for Butkus, Ditka and Singletary on five-degree Chicago afternoons with 40 mph winds," this is a group as knowledgeable as it is passionate. "If you are pretending to known what you are talking about, you will be called out." This is an attitude partially borne of a team that "embraces its history and doesn't cater to fans who are ignorant of it." But that approach runs both ways, as "Chicago fans are hard on the players, demanding quality play on both sides of the ball." While that may make for "an intense, energetic" crowd, it can also make for "a drunk, but happy-drunk" crowd that "isn't a place for kids under 10." But for most, "being a Bears fans and going to Soldier Field is like Christmas every Sunday."
5 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (20 oz.)
Beer (16 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
"The little stands with umbrellas over them that sell hot dogs and Polish sausages are the best." "If you want to spend a lot of money, the Cadillac Club is a place where you can get great food and watch the game." Minus a credit card, fans might find a stop at the Brews Brothers beer vendor a "very friendly" trip or a visit to Nuts on Clark worthwhile for "the best caramel corn on the planet."
6 out of 10
"Taking the El (rapid transit trains) and walking to the stadium is the way to go," although some estimate "you have to walk a mile to get to the front gate." Driving, though, "is a pain," especially "if you decide to drive in and out of the stadium directly and attempt to use Soldier Field parking without pre-assigned passes." Be warned, "there isn't much on-site parking," so many park at nearby lots at Millennium Park or McCormick Place and take "cheap buses that run to the stadium." Getting to these lots isn't always easy, as cars "merge from three highways to crowded city streets." That may be why some feel that "what makes the commute easy is being there four hours early."
4 out of 10
"It's very hard to get a spot close to the stadium if you don't have a season parking pass [at $40 a game], and those are hard to come by if you don't win the lottery at the beginning of the year." That doesn't stop "grills from firing up four hours before the game" with "everything you could ever want, as long as it is a beef, fowl or pork product." "Every drink imaginable" can be found "no matter the weather," and "grilled Krispy Kremes are a big hit" not to be missed. Given the difficulty of tailgating near the stadium, "the best tailgating is actually a mile or so away in other lots," where "a huge sea of barbecue smoke" covers an "army of navy and orange-clad fans sharing food and drinks with their neighbors as footballs sail through the air."
In eschewing a completely new stadium and building a new interior within the confines of Soldier Field's famed stone-covered colonnade, the stadium looks to many "like a spaceship landed in an ancient Roman temple." The final result has left many disappointed in how the "futuristic," "glass" "construction of the addition clashes with the Romanesque aesthetic of the colonnades." "Whoever designed it might know modern architecture, but they understand nothing about Chicago." Still, "the hybrid construction keeps elements of the old stadium intact," allowing one to "feel like you're about to witness an event of gladiatorial proportions" "while also offering amenities such as enormous video boards," "comfortable and spacious seats with cup holders" and "incredible sound system." "That the addition was built within the old stadium means that the stands are very vertical," allowing fans a sense that they are "on top of the field" and making for "phenomenal sight lines everywhere." That level of intimacy, unfortunately, seems to extend to the restrooms, where "urinals spaced far apart in a square room leaves everybody piling up in the middle," when they're not "waiting a half hour to go." Should you escape the restroom and get your fill of the "city skyline peering over the north wall," the stadium concourses offer "a good way to learn about the team's history," from a Hall of Fame to glass-encased memorabilia to a team history painted on the walls. True to its name, the facility also has various "memorials to the men and women of the armed forces."
8 out of 10
With Lake Michigan to the east and the skyline of Chicago to the north, Soldier Field "makes for good visuals on TV," but there's "no real neighborhood around the stadium." The Bears' home, though, is "in a nice park ... with a number of world-class museums" "within a five-minute walk." "While there aren't many bars/restaurants in the immediate proximity, there are plenty within a reasonable walking distance" in the quickly gentrifying Printer's Row neighborhood, where a host of "top-end condos have been built in the last four years."
6 out of 10
As controversial as the refitting of Soldier Field was upon completion, it seems to offer one of the league's most passionate fan bases most every modern creature comfort (restrooms notwithstanding) while paying heed to the tradition so important to Bears fans. And believe us, when it's 10 degrees outside, you can use all the comfort you can get. Unfortunately, as with anything new, all those extras don't come cheap, which is abundantly apparent to those not in the land of luxury suites. Lucky for the Bears, the place the team holds in the city's heart will keep the turnstiles spinning no matter how cheap they feel the club's ownership is.
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.