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Crews Get Soldier Field Ready For Biggest Game Of The Year

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Bears’ matchup with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship is only a few days away, but there’s still a lot to do to get the turf at Soldier Field ready for the big showdown.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov ran across the turf on Thursday to check out how preparations were coming for the Bears’ biggest game of the year — so far.

The stands were quiet at Soldier Field Thursday morning, but on the field, preparations for Sunday’s big game were in full swing.

“Tony the Painter,” the guy in charge of painting the Soldier Field turf for all Bears games, said he’ll be hard at work until kickoff, painting every yard line stripe and every logo on the field and in the end zones.

“Just everything you see, you have to paint,” Tony said. “There’s a stencil for everything, for the end zones, for the numbers. The lines, we use a lining machine for that.”

Head groundskeeper John Nolan will oversee it all, from the sidelines to the field conditions.

“We’re keeping it tarped as much as possible,” he said.

In addition to an underground heating system, the tarp and an above-ground warmer will help keep Soldier Field’s natural grass warm and dry up until the tarp comes off on Sunday, Nolan said.

Soldier Field’s grass has been criticized for years and some members of the Green Bay Packers called it the worst turf in the league this week.

“You know, they compare us to Pittsburgh too and they complain about Pittsburgh and we’re still … the two stadium still playing, so I don’t think it’s as bad as everybody’s trying to make it out to be,” Nolan said.

Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is often cited as the other candidate for worst turf in the NFL, but Heinz Field and Soldier Field are also the only stadiums hosting an NFL game this weekend.

Asked if he thinks critics on the Packers were just being cry babies, Nolan laughed and said, “I don’t want to start any wars.”

“It’s January, it’s a natural grass field and it’s Chicago and it’s cold,” Nolan said. “It’s the best it can be.”

Before Sunday, the benches still need to be set up, divots on the field need to be repaired and the tunnel from where the Bears will take the field to the sound of their screaming fans will be covered with a giant inflatable bear head.

Getting the field ready is one thing. It will be up to Jim Cornelison, the national anthem singer for the Chicago Blackhawks, to get Bears fans ready for the game for the second week in a row.

Cornelison will be pulling double duty on Sunday, singing the anthem for the Blackhawks’ game against the Philadelphia Flyers in a rematch of the 2010 Stanley Cup, before singing at Soldier Field.

“I know I just have to go out and do what I always do,” Cornelison said. “There’s been so much activity today, I was telling my friend … it’s like standing in the middle of a race, but I’m standing. Everybody else is running. I just watch it all go on around me.”

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