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Preservationists raise concerns about new Chicago Bears stadium proposal

Soldier Field
Kevin Stephenson/flickr
Soldier Field

A statewide preservation group is skeptical of a plan to build a new Chicago Bears stadium and reports that it would include demolishing Soldier Field.

Landmarks Illinois points out it has led efforts to preserve the historic integrity of the site, including listing the building on its Most Endangered Historic Places in 2002 when the last major renovation took place.

“As a proposal to build a new stadium south of the existing one has recently surfaced, Landmarks Illinois will again take a stand to save the important landmark,” said the group’s president and CEO Bonnie McDonald.

This year marks the centennial of Solider Field. It was named in honor of U.S. soldiers who died fighting World War I.

McDonald said the structure’s “prominent and iconic colonnades and multiple free-standing sculptures and statues pay homage to the men and women who valiantly served our country.”

She goes on to say Landmarks Illinois has not seen a detailed plan for a new stadium and, therefore, cannot comment on specifics. But reports have indicated a proposal is being floated to only keep the colonnades and war memorials.

“If true, such a plan would undoubtedly fall short of properly preserving and honoring the stadium originally built as a monument for U.S. servicemen and women,” she said.

“While we applaud the Chicago Bears for its desire to maintain a stadium — and the economic boon the team’s games generate — in Chicago, we would not approve of a plan that demolishes the few remaining pieces of the original Soldier Field.”

The Bears have called Soldier Field home for more than a half century. But the team wants a new stadium, arguing Soldier Field, which has the smallest seating capacity in the NFL, no longer works.

The Bears have mulled other options, including purchasing the former Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights as a potential site for new construction of a stadium. However, in recent weeks, the team appears to have warmed to the idea of a new lakefront location south of Soldier Field.

While preservationists push back, the plan could also face opposition from those are against more development along the lakefront.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports former Gov. Pat Quinn is also planning to renew a fight to keep the name Soldier Field. It is currently one of the few stadiums in the NFL without a corporate sponsor in the title.

McDonald also said there have been major missteps in the past have caused the stadium to lose vital aspects of its historic value.

“We hope the city will choose not to tarnish this milestone by allowing the demolition of our history. Of the many things that Chicago excels at in the world, it is the creative adaptation of our signature historic architecture for modern use,” she said.


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