The Chicago Bears are one of the oldest franchises in football history. Tailgating in Chicago has become a time-honored tradition enjoyed by one generation to the next. However, because Chicago has such a long history in football, there have been some huge changes in terms of stadiums and even teams. Understanding these changes and transitions helps to provide a better appreciation for the Chicago Bears and the legendary stadium tailgaters enjoy today.
A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company maintained an athletic field named Staley Field. Located in Decatur, Illinois, the company established the Decatur Staleys as a team in 1919. In 1920, George Halas and Edward Sternaman were brought in to manage the team. While previously a member of the American Professional Football Association, the team became a charter member of the NFL in 1920. Halas relocated the team to Chicago, where they were briefly named the Chicago Staleys. The team was then renamed the Chicago Bears to associate themselves with the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
A little known fact about the Arizona Cardinals is that they were originally from Chicago. Previously known as the Chicago Cardinals, they joined the category of the only two remaining franchises from the founding of the NFL. The Chicago Cardinals actually have a history that predates the Chicago Bears, starting in 1898 when they played under the name Morgan Athletic Club and then later the Racine Cardinals. In 1922, the Racine Cardinals changed their name to the Chicago Cardinals and played their home games at Comiskey Park. The team was ultimately moved to St. Louis in 1960.
When Halas and his partners relocated the Decatur Staleys to Chicago and renamed them the Chicago Bears, their games were held at Wrigley Field. They played there from 1921 to 1970. The primitive seating, stands and lack of padding were added to through the years with portable bleacher sections and hanging padding structures over brick walls.
In a goal to build a stadium in memoriam to the American soldiers, an architectural firm known as Holabird & Roche won a competition which started plans on Soldier Field in 1919. Constructed by the South Park Commission, Soldier Field took $13 million and three separate stages between 1922 and 1939. The South Park Commission combined with other park commissions to form what we know as the Chicago Park District in 1934. Within a year of its opening day in 1924, the stadium was named Soldier Field. The Chicago Bears made Soldier Field their home in 1971. The Chicago Park District and the Chicago Bears pooled their resources to update the stadium for better seating, lighting and player-friendly amenities from 1978 to 1981. In 2003, Soldier Field underwent a huge overhaul in renovation to modernize the stadium and make it multifunctional to host a number of different events.
The history behind the Chicago Bears is something that draws more and more fans to the team. Whether it’s rooting for a team that has a history dating back to the founding of the NFL or rooting for a team that has stood the test of time, Bears fans in Chicago bring that enthusiasm to their tailgating adventures. Bears tailgaters will brave the Chicago winters and stand proud during the scorching summers. Take part in a Chicago Bears tailgate outing and you will be taking part of a historic team.
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Sara Lugardo is a Korean American who thrives in writing about community news in Chicago. She has a Bachelor’s in Communication and is currently working on her Master’s. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.