As Sir Elton John’s Farewell, Yellow Brick Road tour rocked Soldier Field on Aug. 5, the turf quietly wept. The natural grass burned from the usage of the plastic-tiled event flooring. However, hosting an NFL game – albeit a preseason matchup – did not kick a quick fix into action from the City of Chicago’s Park District.
Because the Chicago Bears do not own the stadium, the team caught some misdirected grief for the nearly unplayable conditions. As the Bears and Kansas City Chiefs played a physical, hard-nosed matinee, the grass looked like Chicago’s Grant Park after Lollapalooza.
But as the Bears continue to push for a team-owned stadium in Arlington Heights, the lack of tender, love and care from Chicago’s park district deepens the divide between franchise, city and fan base. The divot-riddled field poses a safety concern for players, and highlights the city’s ineptitude at creating a multi-purpose venue environment.
NFL Players Association President JC Tretter voiced concerns and displeasure on Twitter about the field surface. Tretter said, “We clearly need to re-evaluate what is an acceptable surface for players to compete on.” It’s certainly a valid point from the NFLPA president.
However, this concern is hardly a new issue. The turf monster of Soldier Field wreaks injury havoc on a consistent basis and is a leading cause in the organization’s willingness to leave the lakeside for the suburbs.
On last week’s Uncut with Jay Cutler, the former Bears quarterback welcomed Brian Urlacher to the podcast. Both Chicago legends sang a similar tune about the charter franchise abandoning the city. Cutler said, “Right now, Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in NFL and doesn’t have a dome, and the turf sucks.”
Chicago’s Attempts to Keep Bears at Soldier Field Continue Failing
While the city might believe it understands what the Bears want, the government’s actions say otherwise. First and foremost, owning their own stadium provides massive financial upside for the organization. The McCaskey family finds itself getting the short end of the stick in stadium revenue including concessions, parking and other gameday charges.
The timing of the Elton John concert – while an absolute blast to attend – brings the city’s carelessness under the microscope again. However, identifying the flaws of the grass doesn’t require any sort of zooming lens.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s billion-dollar proposal to install a roof on Soldier Field is the grandest example of lipstick on a pig. The proposal includes a seating capacity increase to 70,000. However, that would only pull the Bears from dead-last to a tie for 13th-most.
Additionally, nothing other than leaving for Arlington Heights allows the NFL’s charter franchise to control the stadium’s usage, preserving the grass. Until then, it falls upon the City of Chicago – and Soldier Field ‘owner’ and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – to fix the massive issue before the regular season.