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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, March 2

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Andrew / September 29, 2003 4:51 PM

To me, it's different things at different angles. Looking at it from the north, I think of the Mother Ship from "Close Encounters." From the south, it's looks less like a spaceship, more like an architecture student's project that mistakenly got made instead of graded.

brian / September 29, 2003 5:00 PM

Horrible horrible horrible.

It completely destroys the older feel of the place and doesn't add anything new.


Naz / September 29, 2003 5:39 PM

Have you seen the official website? Holy shite, that is some piece of crap. As far as stadiums go, it's inevitable isn't it? As profits and demand for seating increase, gone is the old and in with the CRAP. At least it's not Wal-Mart Field.

Craig / September 29, 2003 5:43 PM

I don't think it's as bad as everyone complains it is-- they kept the outer facade and the added section gives the stadium a retro-modern look. After all, the majority of hardcore sports fans are a conservative and traditionalist group who cling to the past-- I think ANY change would miff people. The bottom line is that it's a sports stadium-- not an architectural masterpiece.

kegz / September 29, 2003 6:48 PM

The pictures I have seen of the inside look great. I would love to see for myself tonight, but I have no tix. The outside doesn't bother me much at all. I can't think of too many pro football stadiums with inspiring facades. Like Craig said, it's a sports stadium and I think that's pretty much what it looks like.

I'd most like to see the franchise improve the product on the actual field. That's where their problem is right now.

Andrew / September 29, 2003 11:35 PM

Personally, I wish they had either kept the old stadium look and feel or completely demolished it and started over.

Or what they could have done was built just a bit further south, more toward 35th or so where they tore down the projects a couple years ago. Some new development down there would not only have given them a clean slate to work with but would bring some much-needed commerce to a blighted neighborhood.

susan / September 29, 2003 11:58 PM

massive alien bedpan!

Jeff / September 30, 2003 12:49 AM

From the city, the place looks terrible--as others have said: much life a UFO landed in old Soldier Field. It clashes terribly with the rest of the museum campus. Millions of people have noted this, and rightfully so.

HOWEVER--on Monday Night Football tonight, they showed a number of shots of the new look as seen from the lake at night... and I was surprised to see how the great the steel and glass of the new Soldier Field looked against the Chicago skyline.

So I guess it's a matter of what context you're looking at it in.

WizofOdds / September 30, 2003 1:52 AM

I think all the criticism is overblown. Soldier Field was a great old place, but a terrible venue, which means it failed at its primary purpose. The new place is fan friendly and mixes well with the Chicago skyline as a whole. Chicagoans are very defensive about their neighborhoods and buildings, but we get over it. In five years, we'll completely forget all the criticism and start bragging about our state-of-the-art stadium right downtown, on the lake.

Its like Chicago Stadium. Everybody hated United Center, but you know what? It's a thousand times better for hockey and basketball games than Chicago Stadium was.

Kevin / September 30, 2003 8:13 AM

FWIW, great article in the NYT this morning on this very subject.

Kevin / September 30, 2003 8:15 AM

Here's the link. Duh..

jima / September 30, 2003 9:08 AM

I'm just glad they first spent as much time and money as possible getting the team in tip-top shape before the worried about the statium. Because, of course, it makes more sense to work on the performance of the athletes, so that when you play the very first game in your new digs, you immediately impress all spectators by playing at a level commensurate with your surroundings.

christian / September 30, 2003 10:24 AM

The colonnades seem to be overpowered by the “new bowl” at least on the view from the west. From what I read, the capacity is down a couple of thousand, It sure doesn’t look like it should be down, does it?

When ever you mix old and new, sometimes it looks good, sometimes it looks bad. I’m thinking this looks bad. Even from a modernist stand point. I’ve seen it done before, on a much smaller scale with better results in housing and offices, but big things, don’t really work all that well.

I think that it could have been designed with more of a classical feel and be updated with modern amenities and improved seating, but of course that wouldn’t give the feel of “state of the art.” Come to think of it, why does "state of the art" always have to look like some sort of bizarre metal glass space ship?

Brenda / September 30, 2003 10:30 AM

I find it interesting that owners of residential historic landmarks in Chicago are prohibited from building additions to the house that can be "seen from the street."

The city built the Soldier Field addition on top of the old stadium because it's a "historic landmark." But not only can the new monstrosity be seen from the street, it can be seen from outer space. Double standard, anyone?

Phineas / September 30, 2003 10:51 AM

From the north end of Grant Park all the way down to the McCormick Center there's a complete schizophrenia of style. The city can't seem to decide if they want Colombian Exposition era neo-classicism (see the new collonade at near Michigan and Randolph), super-trendy post-modernism (the Gehry bandshell right behind it) or the bizarre borg-like fusion of the two at Soldier Field. I'm not such a conservative that I want every building in the park to be Corinthian or be torn down, but the disconnect between all these styles is getting to be a bit much.

Can the next Fuel be about how much we hate that Gehry bandshell?

Benjy / September 30, 2003 10:53 AM

I think that it is a terrible eyesore, as I wrote on my blog. The steps taken to fit the stadium within the footprint of the old stadium's exterior walls just don't work. What's the point of confining it to the old walls if it's just going to spill up and over?

And they didn't even bother to match color schemes. The warm tones of the old stone contrast too much with the cold steel and silver glass. I have seen buildings that elegantly tie old and new, classical and modern. This does not!

Jake / September 30, 2003 10:58 AM

How many home games a year does it host? Like, six? They spent how much city money on that ugly-ass monstrosity for six games of football? It seems ridiculous to me. But I don't really care about football and I rarely actually see the thing, so it's not really going to affect my life too much.

"Soldier Field was a great old place, but a terrible venue, which means it failed at its primary purpose."

Was that really its primary purpose? I thought it was some kind of memorial to the soldiers of WWI... The Bears have only been playing there since 1971.

brian / September 30, 2003 11:20 AM

Jake - there are concerts and other events that are held there throughout the year. It is most certainly not *just* for football, but that's what it is known for.

Andrew - while I think in theory having it at 35th might be good for the neighborhood, it isn't a slam-dunk. Look at Comiskey, err, US Cellular Field. The neighborhood is still not much better off with a stadium. And adding a sea of parking lots (which is inevitably what would happen) would probably be a bad thing.

Niki / September 30, 2003 11:22 AM

6 of one, half dozen of another. Not everyone is going to be happy with whatever they did, so I guess all we can do is deal with it.

What's the REAL eyesore is the scoreboard that stated: Green Bay 38 - Chicago 23.

Andrew / September 30, 2003 11:30 AM

At least they weren't shut out.

And Brian, you're right, but it's also a moot point. Then again, there are already large swaths of empty lots in that area already, so adding parking lots wouldn't make much of a difference -- unless you mean they'd need security to prevent break-ins.

Jake / September 30, 2003 11:36 AM

Brian, do you think they would have spent the money on the renovation if not for the pressure/threats from the Bears?

miss ellen / September 30, 2003 11:36 AM

i don't mind it too much; wasn't sure at first, but it really is supposed to bring the game to the fans & the old stadium did not do that.

i never saw a bears game, but saw a U2 concert a number of years ago & then i saw a world cup soccer event in '94. both instances, you were located SO FAR from the field, it was almost pointless. i take it in terms of what you will use it for, not what the outside looks like.

and, i for one, can't wait to see the bandshell, but i like gehry's stuff, just saw his recent building in LA & it's neat-o.

miss ellen / September 30, 2003 11:37 AM

oh, and btw, i graduated from U of I, home of the original "mothership" ;)

WizOfOdds / September 30, 2003 11:37 AM

All of the funds for the stadium came from a "hotel tax," which means generally out-of-towners actually footed the expense (unless, of course, you consider the deferred consumption by the city as "spending.)

And they play 8 home games. They also host the Chicago Fire and numerous sporting events, including international events. During the 1994 World Cup, soccer fans from all over the world were making fun of our terrible stadium. Soldier Field is primarily a sports venue. Its name and the colonnades memorialize WWI soldiers, not the entire edifice. They didn't build Soldier Field as a statue to be used only to commemorate World War I veterans. They built it because they needed a park. They named it to honor those men.

To be perfectly honest, I agree that it is kind of ugly, but that's because I loved how Old Soldier Field looked, especially from those docks just to its north. It was lovely. And the Gehry Bandshell probably will seem ugly to us. But cities don't determine their major architectural projects only on what the residents will think is pretty right then and there. They try to be on the vanguard. People just cling to what they know and what is old. People thought 15-story skyscrapers were hideous, people hated the Monadnock and the Thompson center and almost every major project. But some liked them, and as they became a common part of Chicago's landscape, people got used to them and appreciate them for the diversity they bring.

The point is, the city doesn't belong to us exclusively, no matter how much we love it. Who knows if people in the future will love or hate these buildings. The city was here long before we were born and it'll stay here well after we die. If we only built in classical, throw-back styles, that's stasis, and Chicago would never have become the world capital of architecture. They never would have allowed Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe, or Frank Gehry to build here.

Anthony / September 30, 2003 1:11 PM

Wow. After reading that NYT glowing review, I wonder if Blair Kamin was the only architecture critic who spewed so much venom on Soldier Field.

stephen / September 30, 2003 2:08 PM

Ideally, the Bears should play in a mud pit and everyone can watch them in lawn chairs and get free beer cozies. Of course then there'd be no luxury boxes and all the sponsors would get pissed off because the local kids would keep stealing their signs because they make good patching material for fences.
Anyway. The old stadium had a good feel but it was a tad shitty to actually sit in. But then again so was the Chicago Stadium, and I still like those tiny seats and sticky floor a lot better than the United Center. Ultimately, the fans will make or break stadiums. But what's next, Wrigley Field? A hovering set of bleachers above right field?

Benjy / September 30, 2003 2:44 PM

Another thing that really bugs me about this stadium is that while they added about 8500 more skybox and club level seats for the well healed, the total number of seats dropped by about 5500. So that means that there are now 14,000 less seats for the average fan.

Ian / September 30, 2003 3:04 PM

From a design perspective, I think jury has returned far too soon on the new Soldier Field. Any new project of this scale needs at least five and maybe more years, before it can be considered a success or failure. People’s perception of design, clearly change over time, and the history of events taking place in the stadium, will also effect those perceptions.

From a fan perspective. Less seating? More corporate boxes? Who said modern sport is about the fans?

Hollie / September 30, 2003 3:04 PM

Why didn't the lunkheads who built the new Soldier Field take into consideration that if we built a "dome" or a "retractable-dome", maybe Chicago could have hosted a Super Bowl sometime in the future. Minnesota has hosted the Super Bowl in their dome while it was minus 20 degrees outside. As it stands, we will not get to host a Super Bowl because of the January/February Chicago weather. The Super Bowl site is picked years in advance, it has nothing to do with how good the team from that city is. So even though the Bears suck, we COULD HAVE been in line to host a Super Bowl in the future and millions of dollars would have been pumped into our city during Super Bowl Week...would've been fun!

Is it me, or is Northern Illinois the best football team in the state of Illinois...

Craig / September 30, 2003 3:19 PM

I think WizofOdds is dead on-- change is what keeps a city fresh and growing. If we hold onto the past, we will kill the push-ahead-at-all-costs ethic that formed Chicago's architectural collection in the first place. Anyway, I'd much rather see the city salvage old structures and adapt them to new purposes than raze structures and start from scratch. Think about areas in the city where they ripped down entire blocks to-- say-- build a Home Depot... or a OldNavyExpressStarbucksExpoCrate&Barrel mega-plex... or a DSW/TJ Maxx monolith... The area is stripped of personality, all because it's easier for a developer to start over with their generic plans, than work with what they have and massage their buildings within it's surroundings.

What if they tore down Soldier Field completely and started fresh with Verizon™ Field?

miss ellen / September 30, 2003 4:00 PM


i have to disagree about hosting a superbowl. chicago didn't get to where it is in football history by having a dome. chicago IS football in JANUARY. it's the games played in blinding snow that are remembered time & again...i am very happy they didn't put a dome on it, even if it was retractable.

but, i will agree with you on the NIU tip - go HUSKIES! my bro went there & i had a ton of fun going to those games back in the early 90s, when they'd pull down the goalposts & put them in the pond, or whatever that little waterwork was called ;)

christian / September 30, 2003 4:05 PM

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of most Chicago architecture, and architecture in general, mostly modern stuff (dwell magazine comes to mind) but melding styles without seemingly much thought to the old really doesn't do it for me.

I agree with WizofOdds, building everything classical would make the city suffer and turn into a pale generic version of its self. I also agree with Craig, destroying older buildings to make way for mega shopping centers makes everything look like the suburbs.

Hollie / September 30, 2003 4:33 PM

miss ellen,

Great line!!! "Chicago IS football in JANUARY" :)

I just wish we could have both...January football in Chicago in the blinding snow AND host a Super Bowl. More like a pipedream rather than reality.

Top ten football teams in the state of Illinois right now:
1.) Northern Illinois
2.) Joliet Catholic High School
3.) U.I.C intramural flag football champions
4.) U of I
5.) Da Bears

Hollie / September 30, 2003 4:34 PM

I meant top five teams in the state of Illinois. :)

Jen / October 1, 2003 11:00 AM

Working for the company that built the stadium and having had a private tour of the massive bowl before the public i can say that it's both good and bad for different reasons which means you cant just write it off in one swooping "it sucks" generalization. The utilities, functionality have greatly improved and will benefit fans, but yes, the design is a bit jarring if you cling to the past. What i do abhor is the classist seating arrangement- box suites for the rich/corporate types who can afford them on one side of the assymetrical bowl and cheaper stadium style seating across from them. What is that about?!

dburnham / October 2, 2003 1:38 PM

Somewhere in the Great Beyond, Daniel Burnham weeps.

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